Julia Lynch Olin

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Julia Lynch Olin (October 21, 1882 – March 11, 1961) was an American author and Bahá'í who co-founded the New History Society in New York City, and was later expelled from the religion by Shoghi Effendi around 1939. Through marriage, she was a member of the Astor and Dudley–Winthrop families.


Her parents were Stephen Henry Olin and Alice Wadsworth Barlow. Julia first married J. Philip Benkard of New York, a financier, in December 1902, and had two daughters: Phyllis and Elsie. In December 1920 they divorced and on May 23, 1921, she married Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler, the ex-Lieutenant Governor of New York and a former Democratic candidate for Governor. He was the fifth son of John Winthrop Chanler and Margaret Astor Ward.

Julia was first introduced to the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith about 1925, as she states in her auto-biography. Becoming intimately associated with Mirza Ahmad Sohrab they together with her second husband, started the New History Society. This Society, based in the home that Julia and Lewis owned in New York, (later called Caravan House), published several books, into the late 1950s. It apparently became defunct after Sohrab and/or Julia had died.

In 1929, he and Julia formed an educational organization called Caravan of East and West with a quarterly magazine called The Caravan. This magazine is where Sohrab's partial autobiography first appeared, also in 1929.

Also that year, an article appeared in which the engagement of her daughter Elsie Benkard to Charles H. Clarke was announced (New York Times, Dec 12, 1929 pg 27). The marriage announcement appeared on February 27, 1930, stating that ".....they were married with a Bahai ceremony. It was the first time that such a ceremony..... has been used at a society wedding in New York. Mirza Ahmad Sohrab officiated."

The New History Society was addressed by several luminaries, including Albert Einstein in 1930. Another speaker was Margaret Sanger in January 1932.

In 1936, Julia translated the French version of Seven Valleys into English.

She was expelled from the Bahá'í community in 1939 along with Lewis and Sohrab after they refused to allow the Local Spiritual Assembly of New York oversight over the operations of the New History Society. They went on to support the efforts of Mírzá Muhammad `Alí, and at one point petitioned the President of Israel for Muhammad `Alí's property rights when he tried to assert his control over the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh ([1]).

As part of its mission, the New History Society, for many years sponsored an essay-contest. At least one of the winners of this, Jaja Wachuku, became famous in his own right, for his essay "How Can the People of the World Achieve Universal Disarmament?" written while at the New Africa University College.

She died on March 11, 1961, at the age of 78, and in her obituary she was described as "spiritual leader of the Reform Baha'i movement....." (The New York Times, March 12, 1961; pg 86.)

She was survived by her daughter Elsie of Oyster Bay, New York, and a sister, Alice Townsend Olin of Rhinebeck, New York.


  • Living Pictures. In the Great Drama of the 19th Century. (with Ahmad Sohrab) New York: The New History Society, 1933. Reprinted. H-Bahai: Lansing, Michigan, 2004. (this link includes her picture)
  • Seven Valleys, by Bahá'u'lláh (trans. Julie Chanler), 1936
  • Brand, & Sohrab [libretto Max Brand, and Julie Chandler; Music Max Brand]. The Gate: Scenic Oratorio for Soli, Chorus, and Orchestra in Two Parts (19 Scenes). 61. New York: Associated Music Publishers, 1944.
  • His Messengers Went Forth, by Julie Chanler, Illustrated by Olin Dows. Published by Coward-McCann, Inc. New York. Copyright 1948
  • Ioas, Chanler, & Sohrab. Three Letters. [11] leaves. New York: Caravan of East and West, 1954.
  • From Gaslight to Dawn, New History Foundation, NY 1956

See also[edit]


  • Cutter, William Richard. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. New York, NY: Lewis Publishing Company, 1911.
  • "From Gaslight to Dawn" by Julie Chanler. New York: New History Foundation, 1956.
  • Living Pictures (see Works above)

Further reading[edit]

  • Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines. Volume 4: September, 1955-August, 1958. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1960. (BioIn 4)
  • Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines. Volume 5: September, 1958-August, 1961. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1962. (BioIn 5)

External links[edit]