Marion Jack was born on 1 December 1866 in Saint John, New Brunswick, into a prominent family. She received much of her education in England and France, where she studied art. Painting landscapes was her field of specialty. She first learned of the Bahá’í Faith at a social gathering during her student days in Paris. From that time on, she dedicated her life to serving that Faith. She spent some time in Acre, Israel, (then part of the Ottoman Empire) and, in 1908, taught English to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s grandchildren. She continued to paint while she was there.
By 1914 she had returned to North America; she traveled to Alaska, Ontario, Quebec and many other places in North America to share the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith. “Jackie,” as she was affectionately called, was completely comfortable with young and old alike and was loved wherever she went, drawing everyone to her and to each other through her faith, love and devotion.
Marion Jack returned to Haifa in 1930 and, following this visit, moved to Sofia, Bulgaria, where she spent the remainder of her life. In Sofia, she held frequent meetings that were well attended by people of prominence and capacity. As World War II approached and all who could flee the country did so, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, suggested that she go to Switzerland or some other safe country. She pleaded to be allowed to stay at her post, preferring, as she put it, to “remain at the switch.” Living on a small pension, which did not always reach her, suffering serious deprivation, ageing and in poor health, she stayed at her post.
For the duration of World War II, and especially after Sofia fell behind the Soviet Iron Curtain, Marion Jack displayed constancy, fearlessness and self-abnegation by remaining in Sofia and contributing to the development of the Bahá’í Faith in Bulgaria. Despite living in poverty, with an enlarged heart and many other ailments, exposed to the misery of a nation torn by war, and friends pleading with her to leave, Marion Jack remained in that country for more than 20 years, until her passing on 25 March 1954.
It was not without cause that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called her “General Jack.”
* Adapted from Bahá’í World, Vol. 12, 1950-1954, “In Memoriam,” pp. 674-7.
Early Canadian Bahá’ís
The Bahá’í community has a rich history of members who have contributed greatly to their society as well as to the early development of the Bahá’í community in Canada and the world.