Charles Hermon Greenleaf and Elizabeth Roemer Greenleaf

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Charles Hermon Greenleaf
 May 6, 1857
Death: May 24, 1920
Place of Birth: Wisconsin
Location of Death: Chicago, Illinois
Burial Location: Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Section K Lot42






Elizabeth Roemer Greenleaf
Born: 1863
Death: August 6, 1941
Place of Birth: Maine
Location of Death: Chicago, Illinois
Burial Location: Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Section K Lot42

Charles Greenleaf, a Disciple of `Abdu’l-Bahá, was born in Wisconsin to a family of New England Puritan stock. Raised in Wisconsin and California, as a young man he settled in Illinois, where he became a lawyer and worked for Illinois Trust and Savings Bank of Chicago. On  August 8, 1882 he married E. Elizabeth Roemer of Evanston, Ill., with whom he had two sons, Albert and Charles, Jr. Greenleaf was raised a strong Protestant. He became a friend of Thornton Chase, probably through relatives—Greenleaf’s uncle lived across the street from Thornton Chase’s father in Springfield, Massachusetts—and when Chase became a Bahá’í he told Greenleaf about the new religion. Charles and Elizabeth took a class on the Bahá’í Faith from Ibrahim Kheiralla in the fall of 1897; dreams convinced them of the truth of the new religion, and they “received the Greatest Name” (which was Kheiralla’s method for enrolling believers) on October 5, 1897.

Both became active in the Chicago Bahá’í community. When the Chicago Bahá’ís elected their first governing council, about 16 March 1900, he was one of the ten members. When the body was reelected in May 1901—and reorganized as the Chicago House of Spirituality—he was elected again. However, when the House of Spirituality conflicted with the Women’s Assembly of Teaching—the organization for Chicago Bahá’í women—in early 1902, Greenleaf ceased to attend the House’s weekly meetings. Not until 1905 did his attendance again become regular; after the fall of 1907 he attended meetings rarely until 1911, when attendance records cease. With Thornton Chase, Arthur Agnew, and Albert Windust, Greenleaf was one of four men who founded the Behais Supply and Publishing Board, which was later incorporated (as a not-for-profit company owned by the same four men) as the Bahai Publishing Society.

Albert Windust wrote that Greenleaf “was one of the three recognized pillars of strength of the Cause [in Chicago] in the early days,” the others being Chase and Agnew. Greenleaf’s contributions may have been limited by family and work responsibilities; he is not known to have given any talks on the Faith. Upon his death on May 24, 1920, `Abdu’l-Bahá cabled that He was “supplicating Lord of the Kingdom” to submerge Greenleaf in “an ocean of mercy.” He referred to him as a “blessed soul.”

Elizabeth Greenleaf was also very active in the Chicago Bahá’í community. She served as secretary of the Chicago Bahá’í women’s organization in 1905. After the passing of her husband she began to travel extensively to lecture about the Bahá’í Faith. She also moved to various cities that needed Bahá’ís, remaining there until the community was strong enough for her to move again. In 1924 she was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada for one year. She went on pilgrimage in 1926, meeting Shoghi Effendi. She died on August 6, 1941 in Eliot, Maine; Shoghi Effendi eulogized her as a “veteran and outstanding teacher” and described her qualities of “deep knowledge of the teachings, profound human sympathy, a heart which mirrored the Master’s love, and a winning sweetness and friendliness.”

Stockman, Robert. “Charles Greenleaf” Winters, Jonah

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We simply want to provide direct access to the heroes and heroines who have recognized and served the Bahá’í Faith and mankind. Our hope in sharing these stories is to offer enlightenment, respect and a wholehearted appreciation for the Gift.

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