Mildred Root Mottahedeh was a collector of Chinese export porcelains and a co-founder of a business that created porcelain replicas for various US presidents and organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An American Bahá’í who served as the first representative of the Bahá’í community at the United Nations, an Auxiliary Board member, and as an elected member of the International Bahá’í Council.
Mildred Root became Mildred Mottahedeh in 1908 in Seabright, New Jersey. In 1929, she wed Rafi Y. Mottahedeh. The pair established Mottahedeh & Company in Manhattan the same year and it became well-known as one of the most prominent businesses in porcelain replication, creating over 1,500 distinct products for more than 3,000 establishments, ranging from Tiffany’s to small gift shops. Also, the company created replicas of artwork from institutions’ collections, including the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, to sell in their stores. Replicas of Mottahedeh artwork grace the White House and the State Department’s Washington receiving areas.
Mrs. Mottahedeh refused to replicate an item only because of its historical value and insisted that it instead “have character and usability.” She had an eye for good design and a mind for functionality. Among the pieces that met her requirements were a dinner service created by Pierre L’Enfant for George Washington and a monteith, or punch bowl, with the presidential seal that President Ronald Reagan gave to leaders of state.
Mildred became a Bahá’í in 1929 and was of service to the Faith and the principles thereof her entire life. In the 30s and 40s she traveled Europe teaching the entire way. Mildred had visited ten Countries and assisted their Bahá’í communities by the end of her tour. As an example as a member of a delegation from the Bahá’í Faith, she went to Geneva in May 1948 for an international United Nations convention where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted. She continued her travel teaching in the 50s through Africa and Southeast Asia.
Her notoriety in the Faith and the Business world continued to grow throughout the decades. In addition to four village development projects in Maharashtra state in India that acted as training facilities in agricultural practices, public health services, and the development of local handicrafts, she created a number of primary and secondary schools in Uganda with her husband. Leading the couple to create a foundation, Mottahedeh Development Services Inc., to help with social and economic development projects in the third world.
Mildred continued as President of Mottahedeh & Co., a position she served in until retiring in 1998. She passed away in 2000 and The Universal House of Justice. the international governing body for the Baha’i Faith, sent the following message to all National Spiritual Assemblies after her passing:
“We are deeply grieved at the passing of Mildred Mottahedeh, so esteemed, so greatly loved, so staunch and trusted a supporter and defender of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. With her departure from this earthly life the Bahá’í world community has lost an outstanding figure of the opening epochs of the Formative Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation.
Her more than half a century of tireless endeavor in its service involved her in teaching and administrative activities at the local, national, continental and international levels. At the same time she maintained a rigorous schedule as a businesswoman, a contributor to the arts, and a promoter of humanitarian works. To these manifold tasks, she brought the combined resources of a selfless spirit, a compassionate heart, a creative mind, a practical sense, and a leonine will tempered by humility, candor and wit.
She remained for almost three decades at the forefront of the external affairs work of the Bahá’í International Community and in the service of the world center of the Faith, culminating in her membership on the International Bahá’í Council, the first globally elected Bahá’í body.
With assured hearts, we supplicate in the Holy Shrines for the progress of her illumined soul throughout the divine worlds. Our loving sympathy is extended to the members of her family and all others who mourn her loss. National Spiritual Assemblies are urged to hold befitting memorial gatherings in her honor in all Houses of Worship and other centers.”