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Helen Elsie Austin (May 10, 1908– Oct 26, 2004) was an American attorney, member of the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies in the United States and for the then regional assembly of North West Africa, and worked for years as an US Foreign Service Officer in Africa. She was among the first African American's admitted to the practice of law in the United States, was assistant attorney general in Ohio, served on numerous committees, executive positions, and consulted, for the Bahá'ís, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Council of Negro Women, and was a president for the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Helen Elsie Austin
Helen Elsie Austin.jpg
Born10 May 1908 (1908-05-10)
DiedOctober 26, 2004(2004-10-26) (aged 96)
NationalityAmerican
OccupationAttorney; Foreign Service Officer
Known forPioneering black lawyer and administrator/organizer

Contents

Born and raisedEdit

Helen Elsie Austin's mother was Mary Louise Austin, née Dotson,[1] (sometimes Dodson) herself daughter of 1872[2] member of the Alabama House of Representatives, Rev. Mentor Dodson, who was listed as a teacher in the 1870 Census.[3] Austin's father was George J. Austin, visible in later years being sensitive to issues of colorism as well as casual relationships and advocacy of women.[4] Her parents married June 10, 1906,[5] and both worked at the Tuskegee Institute - a fact Austin recalled that distinguished Mary Louse in the eyes of Booker T. and Mrs. Washington.[6] At Tuskegee George served as Commandant of Men,[7] with a history as a veteran of the Spanish–American War.[8] She was born at Tuskegee.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15] The United States Social Security paperwork does indicate she was born in Washington DC however.[16] The family was still at Tuskegee in 1910 according to the US Census,[17] however from at least 1912 George worked at the Prairie View Normal School in Austin, Texas, (which evolved over time into the Prairie View A&M University,) again as Commandant of Men.[18][4] However in the face of the break out of World War I George Austin spoke of enlistment,[19] and himself sought to enlist for officer training at Citizens' Military Training Camp in New York, where he was denied for no technical reason other than the policy of the US War Department,[20] and instead entered Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School as a first lieutenant for training which ran June to October, 1917,[21] and listed with the draft.[22] He was later credited with serving with the 65th Machine Gun Company, which might be the UK unit of the same name.[8] By January 1920 the family settled in Cincinnati, Ohio,[23] though George was director of a civic league supported by the black community in Port Huron, Michigan,[24] were said to have lived in West Virginia briefly before that,[8] and then after Michigan George was director of a Civic Center supported by members of the white and black community in Zanesville.[8][25] Mary Louise worked at Stowe School,[1] named after Harriet Beecher Stowe.[26] Austin is known to have interrupted a class in high school on an extended description of the contributions of Africans to civilization, correcting a textbook.[13] She shared an oral history recording including the anecdote about her first day at Walnut High School:

 
Walnut Hills is now a neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio.
 
Front of Walnut Hills High School

(After a reading by the teacher from a textbook about the contributions by all the races, but that the black race made no significant contribution and had been created to be subservient to the more fortunate races.) Can you imagine? Two little black girls in a school full of white children, and a classroom of white chilren, and with all the candor and cruelty of the young, the entire class looked at us and there were of course a few snickers and grins. It was then that I remembered my grandmother. I felt as if the klan was standing there with the guns trained on me. With great resentment and resolve I stood up and said 'I was taught in a black school that Africans worked iron before Europeans knew anything about it. I was taught that they knew how to cast bronze in making statues and that they worked in gold and ivory so beautifully that the European nations came to their shores tho buy their carvings and statues. That is what I was taught in a black school. That's what I was taught in a black school. There was an electrical silence. But friends can you imagine; if there had been no protest, what ingrained prejudice and hostility would have been implanted in the minds of those children, and what humiliation and degradation would have been stamped upon us.[27]:7m20s

Austin graduated from Walnut Hills High School,[28] in the suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1924.

College, the Law, and Bahá'í FaithEdit

Following her aunt Jennie Charlotte Austin, class of 1911,[15] in 1928 Austin and 7 other African American women students were admitted to University of Cincinnati, (UC). Historically there was limited attendance of blacks at the university - indeed the first known attendee was not even named in university records.[15] The first significant rise in blacks admitted to the university came in the 1920s with most of those being women and limited to the college of education though that limit was increasingly dropped though there remained no black faculty and blacks could not live in the dormitories and had limited access to the university pool.[15] Austin recalled she and the others they were brought into an administrator's office and warned to not be conspicuous, mind being members of a subject race, and to have low expectations. She reported an anecdote:

We were young, sensitive, full of hope and aspiration for university education. That speech traumatized us. We sat down and discussed the situation. And then all 8 of us decided that we were going out for everything in the university. We almost took an oath in blood that we were all to finish that first year with honors in something. By the end of the year each one of us did take an honor. At the beginning of the next year that same official who had called us in and insulted us, apologized for her remarks.[27]:9m25s

Despite this Austin did join an inter—racial club on campus, as well as the young chapter of Delta Sigma Theta though none of the black sororities or fraternities had their picture in school yearbooks until later.[15] Austin received a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1930 from the University of Cincinnati, becoming the first black woman to graduate from the UC Law School,[12][29] though her father did not live to see it,[11][30] nor when she passed the Indiana Bar,[31] as one of 22 black women lawyers by 1930 and one of the pioneers marked by Goler Teal Butcher.[32][33] During the work of that degree Austin had taken a year to be on the staff of the Rocky Mountain Law Review and on return earned a place in the Cincinnati Law Review.[7][11] She closed out her university work in April presenting Liberia in a mock League of Nations event on campus,[34] a preview of some of her international efforts in later years. Austin's grandfather did live to see these achievements and died in October of that year.[30] Austin was living back home with family,[35] where Austin's mother was inspired to go back to college as well.[6] In 1931 Austin had opened a law practice in Indianapolis, Indiana,[36] and then in Ohio in 1933[36][37] where she co-founded a law firm with Henry J. Richardson Jr.[38] and then presented about the work of the NAACP.[39] About the same time Austin becomes visible as a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.[40] But she was unquieted.

I was young, angry, incensed and hostile. I went to my father and told him I was going to become an agnostic or an atheist because 'I just don't believe anymore in these religions that are all separate, all fighting with eachother, all enforcing prejudice against some group, and yet they say God is the father of all mankind.' My father heard me out, and then said 'Well before you do it, why don't you go and talk to these Cincinnati people who are talking about the Baha'i Faith. He was not a Bahá'í but he said they have some interesting views.[27]:12m16s

The Bahá'ís in Cincinnati date back at least to 1910.[41] A joint meeting of Bahá'í communities of Ohio met in Cincinnati in June 1930, and was a time of monthly public meetings in Cincinnati.[42] In 1931 a Cincinnatian member of the Urban League took part in one of the Race Amity conferences of the religion over in New York.[43] There was a Bahá'í spiritual assembly, the local administrative institution of nine adults, in Cincinnati in 1933.[44] Austin carried literature of the religion around for about two years and attended meetings noting especially prominent African-American and lawyer Louis G. Gregory, and Dorothy Baker over in Lima, who "helped me overcome my bitterness"[27]:13m39s and joined the Bahá'í Faith in 1934,[13] the same year she also presented the NAACP protest of school allocations,[45] was admitted to plead cases before the Ohio Supreme Court,[46] and was named to the Board of Trustees of HBCU Wilberforce University.[47] Austin led a private study class on the religion in 1935,[48] and in 1936 served on an all-Cincinnati YWCA committee of whites and blacks that met at the African-American serving[49] West End YWCA and a functional site for girls in the Y in Walnut Hills.[50]

Assistant attorney generalEdit

In 1937 was a big year for Austin. The year opens being named an assistant attorney general for Ohio under Herbert S. Duffy[11] which made news in a number of venues,[51] still living at the address of her family.[11] In March Austin received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from HBCU Wilberforce University because of her appointment.[52] She continued her work in a variety of settings - YMCA[53] in public society,[54] joined a regional committee overseeing the Bahá'í Faith in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky,[55] and presented at a symposium in Cleveland.[56] Austin was soon also on a Bahá'ís committee overseeing radio use by the religion,[57] and by May was secretary of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP and chair of legal committee of Colored Women Federated Clubs.[58] She continued to be noted at speaking engagements and banquets[59] while also named as a member of the state patrol board.[60] The year closed with Austin elected secretary of Wilberforce University Board,[61] elected to Board of the NAACP branch,[62] and finally giving a talk for the NAACP in December.[63]

1938 was similarly busy. In February she gave a talk for a civic club,[64] and for a Bahá'í youth symposium at YWCA,[65] as well as at Green Acre Bahá'í School.[66] In April she spoke for the NAACP in Dayton,[67] the for youth bar association in Ohio.[68] Her father was remembered during Memorial Day services.[69] Clarification of Austin was appointed was published,[70] and about her status on the Wilderforce board appointment,[71] and invited to present on a convention on the progress of African-Americans.[72] Charles Mason Remey gave a talk on the Bahá'í Faith at the Austin family home in October,[73] and was among the speakers invited on the one hand,[74] and being part of a Bahá'í symposium,[75] and other religious meetings as well.[76] As November closed Austin's continued position on the Wilberforce board was upheld,[77]

February 1939 opens with notice that Austin would serve on a committee interracial "good will" meeting,[78] and presenting at a YWCA in March.[79] In April Austin was among those attending a Kentucky Negro Educational Association conference in Louisville,[80] and in May she was among the Cincinnati Bahá'ís that went to the Bahá'í national convention along with mother Mary Louise and brother George Austin, Jr.,[81] returning for a birth shower.[82] and finishing her term as assistant attorney general,[83] through which she had not seen much work in trials.[84]

DC, Deltas, and Bahá'ísEdit

She started serving on the national legal advisory committee for the Bahá'ís.[85] By September she had moved to Washington, DC, doing legal work for several institutions[86] and where she took on serving with Delta Sigma Theta.[87] Indeed she was elected[88] 8th president of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.[89] She also contributed to a Phi Beta Sigma national essay contest,[90] and more meetings.[91] She was a legal advisor to the District of Columbia government in 1939 and then advised the Office of Price Administration and the National Labor Relations Board[9] and the DC Recorder of Deeds Office.[15]

Now in less public circumstances, Austin addressed the Bahá'í national convention of the spring of 1940,[92] and the 1940 US Census marked the monthly income for each mother and daughter earning circa $2400 recorded in Cincinnati[93] - about $42k in 2018 dollars. 1941 opens with Austin among a free legal aid bureau of the National Bar Association in January,[94] and contributing a youth class at Louhelen Bahá'í School in Michigan in July,[95] Austin was among first 58 women lawyers in US and presently a lawyer for DC Recorder of Deeds,[96] and became the 3rd black woman to teach law in US[97] when she taught at the Robert H. Terrell Law School circa 1941.[98] Continuing her work for the Deltas she presented a “Jobs analysis and opportunities project”(aka OPA) at Delta meeting in 1941.[99] In November she also joined the Maryland, Virginia and DC Regional Teaching Committee responsible for overseeing efforts to promulgate the Bahá'í Faith in that area.[100] The year closed out for Austin with a Christmas Delta's meeting in Detroit.[101]

Commentary on social engagements followed her in 1942,[102] but she also presented the Bahá'í teachings during a national meeting marking the anniversary of the founding of the religion,[103] while continuing her service on the national legal advisory committee of the religion.[104] There was comment that Austin worked, like Louis Gregory on travels in the South for the religion as well.[105] In December Austin was mentioned as Delta President among those about the OPA program.[106] Dwindling coverage shows Austin among the speakers at a Missouri Deltas meeting,[107] and a freshman orientation (though the coverage didn't say where,)[108] while in September Austin was back at Green Acre.[109]

In 1944 Austin was featured during the observance of the centenary of the foundational Bahá'í holy day, the Declaration of the Báb, in a radio interview that was broadcast,[110] and the work of the Race Unity national committee of the Bahá'ís also underscored her work.[111] Though the dates are unknown, Claude Albert Barnett, founder of the Associated Negro Press in 1919, corresponded with Austin.[112]

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United StatesEdit

In the balloting of the 1945 national Bahá'í convention Austin had held the leading position outside of the final members elected.[113] At the June anniversary of the visit of `Abdu'l-Bahá, then leader of the religion, to New Jersey, Austin's contribution was a talk "Bases for a durable peace"[114] in the face of the ongoing WWII which interrupted the international plans of the religion.[115] Austin and fellow Bahá'í Marzieh Gail were at Louhelen Baha’i School in the summer of 1945,[116] and it was noted Austin's term as president of the Deltas was over.[117] Austin then appeared at Green Acre Bahá'í School again,[118] and served on the DC Bahá'í regional convention committee for electing delegates to the national convention.[119] Amidst a national campaign of meetings for the religion, Austin was among those making an appearance in Boston,[120] and then in Pittsburgh in a contrasting tone to that elsewhere in the black community,[121] though the Bahá'ís were "electrified",[122] February ended noting her talk in Cincinnati "Security for a fearful world".[123] Near the close of the 1945-6 term of the National Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada Roy Wilhelm resigned for reasons of health and the delegates for the year elected Austin as replacement in a by-election with her taking office in March, 1946, with more than twice that of the next vote-getter.[124] Her term in office overlapped that of Louis G. Gregory the remainder of that year.[125] In May Austin appeared at the opening of an artist exhibit in DC,[126] and was elected to the national assembly again in 1946,[127] which also saw the launch of the Second Seven-Year Plan by Shoghi Effendi, then head of the religion, calling for the completion of the interior ornamentation and landscaping of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, the establishment of National Spiritual Assemblies in South America, Central America, and Canada; and the reestablishment of the religion in Europe.[115] In July Austin was part of a regional Bahá'í conference including a race unity round table in July,[128] and a series of meetings were held at the HBCU Hampton Institute in July including talks by Austin,[129] followed by an early November appearance in Urbana, Illinois, for the Bahá'ís[130] at which some 800 attended and was broadcast over local radio.[131] Austin spoke before a larger group in Baltimore in late January,[132] and a small group in Atlanta in February.[133] February also was when Austin was a delegate to the International Council of Women conference called by the United Nations Department of Information at Lake Success, NY,[134][15] following which Austin was visible giving Bahá'í talk over in Los Angeles in later March,[135] and then back to Atlanta to a larger meeting.[136] The Atlanta community had had some race incidents with the KKK and affiliated groups in April and began to seek a Center that would be safe.[137] Approaching mid-April Austin was among the honorees of past Delta presidents,[138] while the Cincinnati Bahá'ís elected an assembly with mother Mary L. Austin and brother George Austin,[139] while the national convention included consultation about KKK raids in the South and the terrorism of blacks with Austin commenting "We must formally protest such actions to the authorities; mixed religious groups are meeting in the South today".[140] Austin was elected to the national assembly again.[141]

In January 1948 Austin gave a talk for the Bahá'ís in Dayton, Ohio,[142] with the Bahá'í community thankful for the newspaper coverage.[143] It was also noted she was chairman of the legal committee for the National Council for Colored Women, (NCNW). She was in Cincinnati in February,[144] and then a symposium on women and the United Nations in March.[145] The goal of Canada forming its own national Bahá'í assembly was achieved[146] and Austin attended their first Canadian national convention,[147] and co-presented during a 2 hour public meeting there.[148] Austin was again elected to the US national assembly,[149] spoke at the public meeting during that session[148] and at the convention Austin and Borrah Kavelin held and presented on a workshop "Education to remove prejudice" for attendees of the convention.[150] In October Austin was at a National Council of Negro Women meeting at the White House saying a Bahá'í prayer,[151] and was visible at a "One world concert" held in DC.[152]

In January 1959 National Freedom Day was held in Philadelphia and Austin was a speaker,[153] during which she made comments of `Abdu'l-Bahá visiting,[154] and in March Austin was among the NAACP effort at the Capital.[155] In April it was announced Austin was on the National Programming Committee coordinating and producing all types of materials for the promotion of the religion,[156] and was elected to the national assembly.[157] A reception for Austin was held by a chapter of the Deltas in Georgia in May,[158] and it was mentioned Austin was on the National Labor Relations Board in June.[159] Consultation for the Bahá'í national convention included the virtues needed and encouraged including comments by Austin.[160] Indeed the second recommendation at the convention was that the of Austin's workshops and comments on consultation be published.[161] The national assembly organization was established as a Trust with Austin among the trustees.[162] and in November Austin was visible in DC black society.[163]

In 1950 volume 10 of The Bahá'í World reviewed the centenary observance and included Austin's roll,[164] and was part of the report of the national assembly to the community.[165] Austin was among many at a select reception in South Carolina for Julius Waties Waring at the end of March.[166] General comment on the broad Bahá'í growth in the country and the national assembly election mentioned Austin in Hawaii,[167] The Bahá'ís observed the centenary of the execution of the Báb in July with a panel presided over by Austin.[168] In September Austin gave a talk at Women's Day at a church in Cincinnati.[169]

In 1952 Austin's article "World Unity as a way of life" was included in volume 11 of The Bahá'í World. In it she states:

The achievement of effective understanding and cooperation among the diverse nations, races, and classes of mankind is the chief essential for the survival of civilization. This urgent need is only partially fulfilled by the political, social, and economic theories proffered today. The great and powerful religions emphasize this need in their proclamations, but their practical programs have barely touched the issues involved.… Even as the love of God gives a man new values with which to measure other men and his relationship with them, it also gives him a deeper regard for the law and order which are the basis for any progressive society. Loyalty to spiritual principle and conscientious use of it in human affairs is the beginning of social order and security. The spiritual laws of God give man his great ethical standards. Belief in God and sincere effort to live one's faith are the generative forces of man's conscience. When human conscience and social ethics are united in their objectives there is cooperation between inner and outer disciplines. The result is a matured and refined individual and society.[170]

Late in August the Louhelen School youth program was held with an Austin led class "Divine Art of Living".[171] The 1951 election returned Austin to the national assembly,[172] and she was chair of the Africa committee which reported to the convention on progress of the religion there as well as seeking more connections.[173] In September mother Mary Louise Austin died while visiting Austin; burial was at Colored American Cemetery, in Oakley, Ohio.[174] In October the first coordinated pioneers moving to promote the religion were arriving in Africa.[175]

The 1952 national Bahá'í convention elected Austin though spreading information of it was delayed.[176] Austin's work on the African committee focused on job opportunities.[177] In June Austin contributed to the "Souvenir Unity Feast" for the religion in New Jersey.[178] In November Louis G. Gregory died and Austin was among the many who spoke at the memorial service.[179] Austin was requested to compile a memorial article on Gregory.[180]

Pioneer and Knight of Bahá'u'lláh to MoroccoEdit

As 1953 opened with the news of the Bahá'í Ten Year Crusade, a program to expand the presence of the religion especially in Africa.[115] Austin was a member of the United States International Teaching Committee reporting on progress started previously,[181] followed by appearing at a World Religion Day observance in Wilmington, Delaware, with coverage by WDEL-TV as it was then called.[182] In February the Bahá'ís held a conference in Uganda including Austin,[183][184] as a representative of the US National Bahá'í Assembly.[185] Austin undertook her Bahá'í pilgrimage.[13] American newspaper coverage of Austin's travels to Africa and Europe mentioned her in March,[186] while she returned in April to Cincinnati marking the centenary year of the declaration at Ridván of Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the religion, and the dedication of the House of Worship in Chicago.[187] Austin returned to Cincinnati again in June,[188] chair of the African Committee by September,[189] and into September Austin herself resigned to pioneer to promote the religion requiring another by-election.[190] Ultimately five members resigned to move over seas to promote the religion - Elsie Austin, Dorothy Baker, Matthew Bullock, W. Kenneth Christian and Mamie Seto - and they were replaced by Lawrence Hautz, Charles Wolcott, Charlotte Linfoot, Robert McLaughlin and Margery McCormick.[191]

Austin moved to what was then called the Morocco International Zone centered on Tangier,[192][193] credited with arriving October 23, 1953,[194] for which she was ultimately named a Knight of Bahá'u'lláh.[13] She was named a teacher at the American School of Tangier, during which time she also helped establish Bahá'í communities in northern and western Africa. She still managed to make the news back in the States early,[195] and later[196] 1954. She was appointed as one of the first members of the Auxiliary Board for Africa,[197] assisting Musa Banání.[13]

In 1955 Austin wrote the 18 page booklet Above All Barriers: The Story of Louis G. Gregory[198] which was reprinted in 1964, 1965, 1969, and 1976.[199] Austin wrote of the need for virtues amidst the challenges of pioneering where "all the world's prejucides are on parade".[200] A regional national assembly for north-west Africa was elected by the Bahá'ís in 1956 where Austin and Enoch Olinga served as officers of the convention and Austin serving then as chair of the national assembly.[201] She was elected, and chair, again in 1957.[202]

StatesideEdit

Austin returned to the States again in August 1957 and gave a talk in Hackensack, New Jersey,[203] though she expected to return soon.[204] Still she was in Cincinnati in March 1958 for a reception at Wilberforce.[205] She worked as executive director of the DC office of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and their convention in DC,[206] and reported as a member of the Intercontinental Teaching committee at the US Bahá'í national convention.[207] In July Austin was part of the NCNW reception for the visiting dignitary Kwame Nkrumah then prime minister of Ghana.[208] In October Austin spoke in Chester, Pennsylvania, for a regional meeting of Bahá'ís.[209] In November Austin served through the NCNW as it organized exhibits of African-American women at the 35th Women's International Exposition.[210] In May 1959 Austin continued her work with NCNW for a regional convention in New York.[211] Circa June NCNW had a conference giving awards, announcing studies and newspaper coverage mentioned her comment that "inter-racial participation in the conference inspired a hope for a changed attitude toward minority groups in the South."[212] Austin also presided at a meeting on the evening of the centenary of the execution of the Báb.[213] In late May Austin attended a leadership NCNW meeting in Daytona, Florida,[214] directly before going in June to St. Petersburg, and gave a talk for the Bahá'ís as part of observing Race Unity Day.[215] In October Austin was back as executive director for NCNW presenting at a meeting in DC.[216] In October Austin was part of the NCNW reception for the Ghana YWCA representative.[217]

United States Information AgencyEdit

Austin was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1960,[218] and then was back in north-west Africa, this time in the then named British Cameroons, for the convention to elect the regional national assembly of north west Africa again and was elected.[219] There there was a link made,[220] and she was hired for the United States Information Agency as a cultural attaché,[9] for in 1961 a news bit mentioned she was in Nigeria,[221] and expecting visitors in the fall.[222] She was a teacher living in Lagos.[223] She returned, and while in DC participated in a commemoration of the visit of `Abdu'l-Bahá to DC,[224] visiting kin in Ohio and further training in the summer of 1962.[225] She was described as having served as a "women's affairs officer" and had been to Liberia, Ghana, and Togo. She managed a visit with Delta sisters in October.[226] As a member of a national assembly, Austin helped elect the first Universal House of Justice in April 1963.[227] She returned to Nigeria.[228] In 1964 Austin was alternate to Gladys Avery Tillett for Lomé seminar, then cultural affairs officer of Lagos, Nigeria.[229] Austin was returned in the summer of 1965 to Ohio,[230]

Austin was noted in Nairobi, Kenya, October, 1967.[231] In December Austin took part in a Bahá'í inter-continental conference in Kampala, Uganda,[232] Ultimately Austin served on Local Spiritual Assemblies in Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Bahamas.[13]

In 1968 the USIA recognized her achievements by nominating her for the Federal Women’s Award,[9] and by the late summer was giving a talk as part of an observance of the Bahá'í holy day the Birth of the Báb in Cincinnati.[233] In November she was in DC for a Deltas meeting, now a regional women's affairs for east Africa.[220]

In January 1969 Austin returned to the States and was interviewed. “One of the happy things in my work is realizing all people of the world are reality alike.” She worked for USIA for 8 years,[234] and visited with the Deltas during the trip.[235] In June she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Cincinnati.[68][236]

Among her last actions in the diplomatic service, in 1970 Austin edited the bulletin Community Action collected into a bound volume,[237] and retired.[9]

Retiring to the StatesEdit

In spring 1972 Austin was one of the presented before the Hampton Institute, in DC,[238] and a couple days later participated for the 3rd annual Women's Day program in Cincinnati.[239] Austin gave a talk at meeting late in 1973 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in town,[240] and for the college club.[241] Her talk was summarized in the local newspaper.[242]

In 1974 it was remembered Austin was among the national assembly members who decided to pioneer.[243] In early May 1975 Austin was in Cincinnati for the Optimist Welfare Club,[244] and in later May Austin chaired the Bahá'í delegation to the International Women's Conference in Mexico City.[13][245] In later November Austin was a keynote address at Texas A&M for a talk: "Women and the crisis frontiers: development, justice and peace".[246] At the time Austin was working for the Domestic Education Assistance Program of the Phelps Stokes Fund. She wrote a biography of Matthew Bullock published late in 1975.[247] Austin also released an anecdote of Gregory's life for a children's book in 1976,[248] and reported on an October 1977 international conference of the Bahá'ís held in Nairobi, Kenya.[249]

In 1981 lawyer, professor and historian J. Clay Smith Jr. remembered and documented Austin before the Marion County Lawyers Club of Indianapolis which was later submitted to the Senate Congressional Record.[250] In 1982 Austin was among the founding members of the Friends of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University.[251] And she worked with the Phelps Stokes Fund in China inspecting schools, businesses and community services affecting education and opportunities for minorities.[9][14] Circa 1985 Austin was living in DC.[15]

Austin returned to Cincinnati a few times in the 1990s. She appeared on the program at the Women's Day program of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church.[252] In 1991 the University of Cincinnati Alumni Association awarded Austin its Distinguished Alumni Award.[253] Austin returned to Cincinnati in the summer of 1996 to help dedicate the then new Bahá'í Center.[254] An Austin scholarship award on prejudice was given by the Bahá'ís of Cincinnati in 1998.[255]

New millenniaEdit

In 2000 Austin contributed to the historical text Rebels in Law: Voices in History of Black Women Lawyers. In it she said:

This force of disunity (outlined by a quote of `Abdu'l-Bahá) especially as it is generated from racial prejudice is the most dangerous issue in America today. The race issue has become the most subtle and powerful contract of the American people used by the forces most opposed to democracy in any form. Through it we can see the thing `Abdu'l-Bahá spoke of actually coming to pass. Black and white, we are being played against each other and against ourselves. For every group which rises to liberalize and unite the people there are others surely at work under cover dividing and agitating.… Now is the time for every bit of organization, strength and for all types of leadership to unite in an educational campaign to mould new ideas of Americanism and race and to develop a sense of unity in the American people.… Brotherhood is no longer an idea in this age, it is a social necessity without which all men will be in danger of extermination.… When the time for showdown comes as it must we shall not be able to hold these victories in the face of heightened tension, bitterness and strain unless we have developed a powerful force for public opinion between white and black America and a strong sense of unity."[256]

The University of Cincinnati College of Law established a scholarship in her name, though she could not attend the reunion event where it was announced.[257]

She lived in Silver Spring, Maryland before moving to San Antonio, Texas in June 2004 where she died of congestive heart failure aggravated by asthma on 26 October 2004.[10][16][258] Public memorial services were held at the Bahá'í Houses of Worship in the United States and in Uganda.[13]

In 2007 Austin was admitted the Walnut Hill's High School Hall of Fame.[259] In 2010 a collection of biographies included one co-written by Austin of African-American Bahá'í Valerie M. Wilson who pioneered to Liberia from Los Angeles with whom Austin was an Auxiliary Board member under Musa Banání and as member of the regional national assembly of north west Africa who died in 1993.[260] In 2011 a Bridgeport, Ohio, student wrote a biography of Austin for class and was mentioned in local newspaper coverage.[261]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Ohio Newspaper Women's Association (1939). "Mary Louise Austin". In Ruth Neely (ed.). Women of Ohio: A Record of Their Achievements in the History of the State. S. J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 119.
  2. ^ National Council of Negro Women (2000). The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro. Beacon Press. pp. 115, 153. ISBN 978-0-8070-0964-2.
  3. ^ "Minter Dotson United States Census, 1870". FamilySearch.org. 1870. Retrieved Dec 4, 2018.(registration required)
  4. ^ a b Austin, George J. (5 Feb 1914). "Picture of Bachelor-Benedift Ball". The New York Age. New York, NY. p. 4. Retrieved Dec 4, 2018.
  5. ^ "Mary Louise Dodson Alabama County Marriages, 1818-1936". Familysearch.org. June 10, 1906. Retrieved Dec 4, 2018.(registration required)
  6. ^ a b Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis (2006). "Mothers as role models: Vignettes of exemplary women". In Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis; Richard Thomas (eds.). Lights of the Spirit: Historical Portraits of Black Bahá'ís in North America, 1898-2004. Baha'i Publishing Trust. pp. 90–1. ISBN 978-1-931847-26-1. OCLC 1048122387.
  7. ^ a b Ohio History Central » History » People » Austin, Elsie
  8. ^ a b c d "Sign petitions to keep Austin at local Center". The Times Recorder. Zanesville, OH. 2 Apr 1921. p. 3. Retrieved Dec 4, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "The officers and governors of DACOR were also saddened to learn of the deaths of the following colleagues and friends; Helen Elsie Austin". The DACOR Bulletin. Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired. 56 (1). January 2005. OCLC 24437131. Archived from the original on Mar 18, 2005. Retrieved Dec 14, 2018.
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