FROM NEW YORK TO BAHIA DE TODOS OS SANTOS
By Vânia Marcondes
We are living in the woman revolution period that started last century with Industrial Revolution. This social phenomenonallowed the flourish of several historic events and achievements done by uncountable women, therefore it is difficult for me, to choose a woman I admire. But, there is a woman among several others ones who I would like to write about.
Her name is Leonora Holsapple Stirling, an American educator. She was born in the countryside, near the Catskill mountains, with a view to the Hudson river, on the twenty third of June in 1895. Leonora came from a small family. She had only a sister, called Alethe and her mother died when Leonora was just 5 years old, so miss Stirling was raised by her father, however, she and her sister often spent the vacation summer with a great her mother’s friend, aunt Fanny, in New York city. Leonora enjoyed taking care of poor children in a shanty town in New York. This was her work during the summer:to cheer the poor children up, through the Charity Organization Society. The young woman also liked Natural History a lot and she used visit the New York Museum. As student, Miss Stirling was brilliant; she was elected Phi Beta Kapa so she won a scholarshipfrom the government. In the University, Leonora went into to Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. She studed Letters (studies in German, Spanish, Esperanto, English and her mother language). She also took classes about the Bible and she studied in a course called “Comparative Religion”. Leonora got graduation in Literature, Astronomy, Botany, Physics and Chemist.
After her graduation, she taught Latin for five years, but Miss Stirling devoted her life to Social Service. Her carrier began when Leonora was 13 or 14 years old and she heard about some Principles which changed totally her life. Those principles talked about: Universal peace, a new world order, with universal education, unity of mankind, and elimination of prejudice, the emancipation of woman and others. The Leonora’s grandmother taught her about this principles. Immediately, Leonora studied about these new ideas that were spreading around the planet and they came from a newborn Religion: The Bahá’í Faith.
In 1919, Leonora Stirling attended the Bahá’í Convention in New York. Soon after, she makes an important decision: to come to Latin America and to proclaim to Latin American people about those principles which was reveled by Bahá’u’lláh (a title that means “Glory of God” in Arabic), who brings new spiritual and social teachings for our modern age.
Leonora’s Arrival in Brazil
Miss Stirling got in Brazil, at the Rio de Janeiro Port. She was not able to speak Portuguese nether understand at all about our language. Her first job was in Santos (SP). After later, she began to teach English and in the same time, Leonora has known more and more about Portuguese language. She used to participate in National Congress to give a talk. But She was not only a good educator and public speaker, she was very hard working too and as a social worker Leonora used to supported an orphanage for abandoned children in Salvador (BA), the city where she chose to live, however she often used to travel to spread the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh. She has visited several countries in Latin America, such as Venezuela, Trinidad, Curacion, Barbados, Haiti and others. In Brazil, she did a travel to Fortaleza; in that occasional there was a cholera epidemic, so she helped the ill people to making a donation of medicines, food and clothes. She was known like “the nurse of poor people”. She said that it was necessary to show them through the actions the main purpose of Bahá’í Faith: the mankind unity.
Her work was really hard because she also made translations of all the Bahá’ís Scriptures to Portuguese and Spanish. It was innumerable translations of books. But Leonora was a simple and shame person. She did not have many resources. Miss Stirling made other translations (with exception of the Bahá’í Scriptures which she worked as a volunteer). Moreover of the translations she still used teach English so, the English teacher rented a house in Salvador and after, she rented out one of the rooms of the house to students. When Leonora travel around the world, she made several translations to get some money. Can you realize how is useful to speak English?
After a many trips around the planet and all the Brazil, Miss Stirling got married to Harold Armstrog in 1941, when she was 45 years old. Mr Armstrong was from England and he was one of the people who used rent the Leonora’s home. He was widowed and got three daughters. In that time, Harold was working in the the Compahia de Energia Elétrica e de Bonde in Salvador. But Mr Armstrong was transferred to Recife (PE). Then Leonora, now Mrs. Armstrong moved to Recife with him. After the marriage, Leonora continued working. In Recife, her friend Hildélia Drummond, put her in touch with the Gilberto Freyre. They could change some books and ideas. She also gave talk, in great conferences, important meeting, public schools, and at the prisons. Her favorite theme was the “Woman role in a modern society.” All the time, she used to help the poor people, the ills and necessitous out. Leonora whose the name means “light”, was the first Bahá’í to live in Brazil and she is regarded as a ‘Spiritual Mother of the Bahá’ís of Latin America’. Mrs. Armstrong was 85, when she died in 1980, in Salvador and some minutes before her death, she made a recording with a message.” The woman has a supreme privilege. It is our duty; therefore we have to stand up and to carry our first obligation. We are the first educator of the humanity.”
Nowadays, we can see in some towns of country, such as Natal (RN), Salvador (BA), Curitiba (PR), Rolândia (PR), Manaus (AM), streets and squares with her name: Leonora Armstong.
Marques, Gabriel – Leonora Armstrog: Memórias e Cartas. Ed. Bahá’í do Brasil, Mogi Mirim, SP, 2006.
Site Youtube: Cordel Literature in honor of Leonora Armstrong. It was wrote and narrated by Vânia Marcondes. Listen it!
 Plural: phenomena
Very poor area in or near a town where people live in small houses made from thin sheets of wood.
 It is a Institution which meet all students who got great academic distinction.
 Na amount of money that is given to someone by an educational organization to help pay for their education.
 Oral presentation or communication
 Work done by government or private organizations to improve bad social conditions and help people who are poor, have family problems, are unable to find a job.
 Gilberto Freyre(1900-1987) Was an Educator, Judge and Sociologist, one of the most writer prominent in Brazil. His most famous work is the book Casa Grande e Senzala.