Eloise Mitchell supported Faith in West Africa, many U.S. locations
Eloise Pearl Mitchell was a pioneer and Auxiliary Board member for the Bahá’í Faith in West Africa in the formative 1950s, and moved to several U.S. locales over the years as a homefront pioneer.
A prolific writer for educational magazines and contributor of Bahá’í-inspired articles to newspapers, Eloise entered into the Abhá Kingdom on September 22, 2014, in Big Rapids, Michigan, where she had moved as a homefront pioneer in 2003. She was 88.
Born in 1925 in Chicago, Eloise was educated in Flint, Michigan, and trained in clerical work and dress making. She embraced the Bahá’í Faith in 1954 while living in San Francisco. Her spirit of service was evident early on, as she served on the National Youth Committee and the Geyserville Bahá’í School committee before returning to Flint.
In 1957 she arose to help fulfill a goal of the Ten Year World Crusade of 1953–1963, moving to Liberia for a few months, then relocating to Ghana. She spent most of her five years in the region supporting the Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga as an Auxiliary Board member, traveling and meeting many to encourage and help unify the Bahá’í community, arranging for placement of Bahá’í books in libraries, and assisting fellow pioneers in settling. She also served as a member of the Regional Teaching Committee of Ghana and of the Spiritual Assembly of Accra. Her service brought her in contact with such stalwart Bahá’í teachers as Valerie Wilson, Vivian Wesson and Elsie Austin.
A brief but vivid article she contributed to the February 1968 issue of Bahá’í News shows glimpses of her teaching and service experiences in West Africa: balancing her U.S. upbringing with different living conditions and ways of thought; letting go of preconceptions about Africans; learning to respond to questions from seekers; accompanying the Bahá’ís through points of passage such as a funeral; and rejoicing in the dedicated efforts of indigenous Bahá’ís. The article conveyed her sense of building on the legacy of the Christian missionary tradition despite apparent mistakes and shortcomings: “If those early workers in His Cause unwittingly made errors, gave offense or failed to understand the people whom they taught, so likewise did the pioneers; and we can only pray that their efforts and ours be acceptable to Him — according to His Grace and Mercy — for their intent rather than for any unfortunate effect.”
After her return to the United States, Eloise continued to travel widely to teach the Faith and support Bahá’í activity. She made her home in such scattered places as New York City and Long Island; Philadelphia; Jacksonville, Florida; Tuskegee, Alabama; Flint and then Big Rapids. Some of her moves were as a homefront pioneer to strengthen sparse communities, and she was a Spiritual Assembly member in several localities.
While living in Philadelphia, she was part of a delegation representing the Bahá’ís of the United States at a 1965 UN non-governmental organization conference. In Alabama in the early 1970s, she was elected twice as a delegate to the Bahá’í National Convention.
Working in social services, she was also a prolific researcher and writer. She contributed articles to magazines, principally the Scholastic publications, under the pen name Akosua. In addition, she wrote dozens of articles on the Faith in small-town weekly and campus newspapers.
“Eloise Mitchell was greatly loved and admired for her spirit and joy for the Faith she treasured and for which she lovingly made so many sacrifices,” says a tribute from her Bahá’í community. “For the many to whom Eloise served as spiritual mother and kindhearted mentor, we miss her presence, but are overjoyed with her birth into the next world.”