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Bertha Hyde Kirkpatrick

Bertha Hyde KirkpatrickShe was born in Rockville, Connecticut, on June 16, 1874.  After attending Holyoke, she taught school for 10 years.  Late in 1908 she came to Topeka to assist her brother, Dr. Arthur Hyde, whose wife had died that fall leaving him with a young son.  He was the first full-time history professor at Washburn College.  The next fall she began teaching science at Central Park Elementary.

In 1912 their mother and sister, living in Urbana, Illinois. learned about the Bahá’í (Bahai) Faith from the minister of their Unitarian church.  Eventually, he and one third of the congregation joined the Bahá’í community. He, and other Bahá’í teachers, was invited to Topeka. In 1916 Bertha joined and soon a Bahá’í study class was formed in the capital city. The high point of these traveling lecturers came in December 1920 when Mirzá Jinábi Fádil, a native of Iran, came to town.  At one public meeting a member of the audience said it was time America received some missionaries, we had sent out so many.

The Topeka Bahá’ís elected Bertha to be their local Treasure in 1921.  Later that year a neighbor, the Reverend John E Kirkpatrick, was dismissed from Washburn.  He had been hired in 1908 to be the second full-time history professor.  Earlier in his career he has been the minister of Seabrook Congregational Church, then just west of Topeka.  His wife died in a traffic accident in 1911.  Kirkpatrick left town in 1921 for better opportunities and the Hydes followed in sympathy.  Three years later he and Bertha married and settled in Olivet, Michigan, where he was teaching.

To obtain more information about the religion Kirkpatrick wrote to a college friend of his,  in Jerusalem. The reply contained accurate information, but makes an assumption which soured his opinion. This, in turn, caused Kirkpatrick to regard Bahá’í in a negative light. He and Bertha agreed to disagree.

In the late 1920s Kirkpatrick became ill.  They eventually returned to Topeka where he was admitted to Security Benefit hospital because they held that insurance.  While in hospital the Kirkpatricks continued a family practice of reading scripture together, now adding Bahá’í scripture also.  The day before he died, on 31 Jan 1931, he wrote his last statement to his wife, “One thing only, to be a good Bahá’í.”  He is buried in Topeka.

Bertha returned to Olivet and increased her Bahá’í activities. She had gone from writing for the Bahá’í magazine, Star of the West, to, in 1927, the editorial board.  Soon she was writing the editor’s column.  She helped found Louhelen Bahá’í School and was Secretary of its board. In 1940 she moved to the editorial board of The Bahá’í World, a periodical survey of activities of the Bahá’í world under the direction of the Bahá’í World Center in Haifa. Seven years later, she was asked to take on editorship of Bahá’í News, the newsletter of the Bahá’ís of America. In this time she also traveled frequently to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to assist the Bahá’í community there.

All this ended on May 15, 1948, when she was in a traffic accident.  She died a few days later and is buried in Olivet.

Entry: Kirkpatrick, Bertha Hyde

Author: Duane L. Herrmann

Author information: Herrmann has degrees in education and history from Fort Hays State University. He has published widely on the history of the Bahai faith with publications now in a dozen countries in four languages. His history book By Thy Strengthening Grace received the Ferguson, Kansas, History Book Award in 2007. He has actively studied the Bahai faith since 1969.

Date Created: September 2015

Date Modified: February 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.