Click the image to learn more. The Baha'i House of Worship located in a suburb outside Chicago is the only Baha'i temple in the United States. Wisconsinites donated to the temple's construction, which took over forty years to complete.

In 1894, Ibrahim Kheiralla, one of the first Bahá’ís in the United States, arrived in Chicago.[1] This Lebanese-born entrepreneur, aided by new converts to the Faith, worked to spread this independent, monotheistic religion. Within five years Bahá’í communities had spread to Southeastern Wisconsin.[2]

The Kenosha Bahá’í community, founded in 1898, is the second oldest in the nation.[3] Supported by weekly visits from Chicago Bahá’ís, the Kenosha Bahá’í community functioned like the city’s many fraternal organizations.[4] Although most early Bahá’í converts in America were members of the emerging middle class, many Kenosha Bahá’ís were working-class immigrants.[5]

In 1900, Charlotte and Henry Morton moved from Kenosha to Milwaukee, becoming the city’s first Bahá’í residents.[6] By 1906, the Milwaukee community had grown to fourteen members.[7] More recently, several influential national Bahá’í leaders and missionaries—called “pioneers”—have ties to the Milwaukee community.[8] Immigration from Iran and an increase in conversions in the late twentieth century added to the strength of American Bahá’í communities. In 2010, over 730 Bahá’ís worshipped in greater Milwaukee.[9]

Milwaukee-area congregations have met in private homes, parks, and rented spaces.[10] Wisconsinites helped fund the United States’ only Bahá’í temple, located outside of Chicago.[11] From the 1960s until the 2010s, Milwaukee Bahá’ís maintained a community center in the Midtown neighborhood.[12] And in 2001, upwards of 8,000 faithful attended a Bahá’í national conference in Milwaukee.[13]

Although members are discouraged from joining political parties, the faith is active in promoting racial and gender equality, human rights, and sustainability on the local, national, and international levels.[14]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ Robert H. Stockman, The Bahá’í Faith in America, vol. 1, Origins, 1892-1900 (Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1985), 30.
  2. ^ Stockman, Origins, 1892-1900, 110-112.
  3. ^ Robert H. Stockman, “Love’s Odyssey: The Life of Thornton Chase” (unpublished manuscript of Thornton Chase: The First American Bahá’í), chapter 12, accessed November 9, 2016.
  4. ^ Roger Dahl, “A History of the Kenosha Bahá’í Community, 1897-1980,” in Community Histories, ed. Richard Hollinger (Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1992), 3.
  5. ^ Dahl, “History of the Kenosha Bahá’í Community,” 5; Robert Sockett and Jonathan Menon, “Building a Community of Practice,” 239 Days in America: A Social Media Documentary, December 3, 2012, accessed November 9, 2016.
  6. ^ Robert H. Stockman, The Bahá’í Faith in America, vol. 2, Early Expansion, 1900-1912 (Oxford: George Ronald, 1995), 30, 139.
  7. ^ “Minutes of the House of Justice,” June 25, 1901, and “History of the Bahai Assembly of Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” [April 1906] both in Robert Stockman, “Notes from the National Bahá’í Archives on the Chicago House of Spirituality,” Baha’i Library Online, 1986, accessed November 9, 2016.
  8. ^ James M. Johnston, “Baha’i ‘World Religion’ Draws ‘The Best’ from All Major Faiths,” Milwaukee Sentinel, March 6, 1965.
  9. ^ Richard Hollinger, “Introduction: Bahá’i Communities in the West, 1897-1992,” in Community Histories, ed. Richard Hollinger (Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1992), xxx-xxxiii; Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, “Metro-Area Membership Report: Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI, Metropolitan Statistical Area,” (Association of Religion Data Archives, 2010), accessed November 16, 2016.
  10. ^ Hollinger, “Introduction”; for an example of a meeting in a park, see David Mueller, “Observance of the Martyrdom of the Bab on Saturday, July 9th,” Welcome to the Milwaukee Baha’i Community (blog), June 28, 2016.
  11. ^ Dahl, “History of the Kenosha Bahá’í Community,” 15-16; “Minutes of the House of Spir.,” June 8, 1907, in Stockman, “Notes.”
  12. ^ The Bahá’í Center (2526 W. Vliet Ave) first appears in the city directory in 1969. See Wright’s Milwaukee (Milwaukee County, Wisc.) City Directory 1969 (Milwaukee: Wright Directory Co., 1969), Street Guide, 402. The Center closed sometime between October 2011 and October 2015. See Google Street View images.
  13. ^ Tom Heinen, “Baha’i Conference Is for All Faiths,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, date unknown, 2001, retrieved from Bahá’í Library Online, last accessed June 8, 2017.
  14. ^ Nahal Toosi, “Bahá’í Faith Celebrates 100 Years in Milwaukee,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, November 10, 2000, retrieved from the Bahá’í Association at the University of Georgia; “Media Kit,” U.S. Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs, accessed November 16, 2016.

For Further Reading

Dahl, Roger. “A History of the Kenosha Bahá’í Community, 1897-1980.” In Community Histories, edited by Richard Hollinger. Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1992.

Stockman, Robert H. The Bahá’í Faith in America. 2 vols. Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1985; Oxford: George Ronald, 1995.


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