Ambassador at the Court:
It was summer vacation, and many Bahá'ís were at the Yerrinbool Summer School. At news of Effie Baker's death on January 1st 1968, preparations were made to transport the participants to Sydney in hired buses to attend her funeral. I recall the service at 2 Lang Road Paddington, and the slow procession of the courtage past the House of Worship at Ingleside, to Mona Vale cemetary. It was a bleak and rainy day, January 4th.
I was one of the fortunate childen. We visited the Bahá'í headquarters in Sydney almost every week, but we were too young to have any interest in the affairs of the grown ups. We played on the stairs and in the foyer, until Effie called us into her rooms. There she told us stories, showed us photos, and gave us drinks and presents. She was playful like us. I know the sound of her voice, and I know her sprightly gait. Such knowledge stays alive in the memory while what is written solidifies into representation of a not-any-longer-living "past".
The research for this book began many years ago. But as I have never felt to be in possession of the tools required of the biographer who would craft the story of such a life as Effie Baker's, I have felt no urgency to complete it. An initial essay appeared in Herald of the South in April 1986. I give this incomplete offering now in thanks to those who have shared with me their memories of Effie.
Learning from the lives of others is an enriching experience, the more so when the personality under observation arouses our interest and respect. Those who knew Effie Baker during the years of her childhood and adolescence may well have admired the young woman's vitality and creative spark: few could have imagined, however, the challenges she accepted in her more mature years. Travel to England may well have figured in any attempt by her friends to "tell her fortune"; but travel beyond the "motherland" amidst cultures and geography further east, and adoption of a new religion besides, would not have been predicted. Yet this was the path that Effie followed.
Most of what we know of Effie's activities in Haifa comes from her own accounts - from letters written by her to friends at the time, or from stories recounted by her in the years following her return. Other information has been gleaned from friends and relatives, from other correspondence, and a few publications. All who knew Effie testify to her self-effacing manner. Yet this did not stop her from telling her own story, and being in control of her own life-narrative. And this narrative presents a paradox, for although Effie was never at the centre of the stage, her life and achievements have an enduring significance.
It was a privilege to come into contact with some of Effie's relatives through this project, including Margaret Baker, Bill Wheeler, her sister Elizabeth Sims and niece Gwen Gardner, and Margaret Davis. The late Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone, and Madge Featherstone, provided over a number of years precious details about Effie's life, and relationship with Clara and Hyde Dunn. Hand of the Cause Mr A.A. Furutan kindly shared his recollections of Effie's travels in Persia.
I have been assisted in this project by many people, including Stanley P. Bolton, Ray Meyer, Wendy England and Margaret Bourke, James & Merle Heggie, and Marjorie Moores. Stella Childs welcomed me to Effie's Goldsborough home, and assisted me in contacting Effie's former neighbours, including Nin Martin, and Ronald Careless. Mabel Garis, biographer of Martha Root, shared material additional to that included in her pioneering work, Martha Root: Lioness at the Threshold. At different times John Bruha & the late Nick Humphries assisted with reproduction of photographs. I wish to thank the staff at the Bahá'í World Centre, particularly Claire Springston, Beverly Rennie, and Nell Golden. The late Roger White took an interest in the project, and provided information about Muhammad Labib.
A number of Bahá'í archives have also provided valuable information, and for this I thank Joan Camriss of the New Zealand National Bahá'í Archives; Roger Dahl at the United States National Bahá'í Archives, and Mary Johnson of the San Francisco Bahá'í Centre; Marjorie Fozdar when secretary of the Bahá'í Teaching Committee of Western Australia (which holds the Bahá'í Archives for that state). The papers of Effie Baker at the Australian National Bahá'í Archives have been indispensible in conducting this research.
Significant improvements to the text have been made following the careful reading of drafts by Andrew Stranieri and Katayoun Hassall. That so many people assisted me with what is essentially a small project has demonstrated to me once more the joy of collaborative scholarship. There are two voices in this text. At most points, it is the voice of the biographer, who seeks to draw together the many strands that time has blown to different regions; at others, it is the voice of Effie Baker, the only one capable of telling her story.
Henry Baker's wife, Euphemia Mcleash, grew up in Couper Angus, near Perth in Scotland. She too had ventured to North America, and had married Henry in New York. Her brother William Mcleash later joined Henry Baker in the quest for gold in Victoria. Baker, Mcleash, and their partners Robert Dodd and Samuel Crozier, discovered the Bealiba Reef (also known as the Queen's Birthday Reef). Their claim was registered on the last day of 1863. They erected a four horsepower engine on the site, and their first crush yielded seventy-seven ounces of gold.
Squatters had established the town of Goldsborough in 1854. What commenced as a temporary community, living in calico houses along streets with such names as "Pick", "Shovel" and "Windlass", expanded at one time to a population of 70,000. The Goldsborough reef was discovered in 1865, and the Bakers built their house near it in 1868. The broken ground of the Victorian gold fields, once covered with miners' claims is still visible. This was a culture of expedition. Not far from Goldsborough are weathered but proud monuments to the "Welcome stranger", the largest gold nugget found in Australia, and to the birth place of John Flynn, who established the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The fortune hunters are long gone, but the descendants of those who stayed are now farmers and small town dwellers in the Bealiba, Dunolly and Molaigul shires.
Her father John Baker was educated at Wesley College in Melbourne in 1868 and 1869. But then there was trouble with the family's mining claims, which obliged his return to Goldsborough. This was a culture of tribulation. In 1867 rival miners had attempted to "jump" the leased area on the basis of some improperly registered documents. Captain Baker and his partners won a subsequent court-case, but the legal battle absorbed their newfound wealth (Baker had made as much as five thousand pounds from gold-mining2). Still more capital was lost when Captain Baker made some unwise investments in land. John Baker subsequently worked as a foreman in the mines at Goldsborough and at others in Tasmania.
Her maternal forbears were also British. Her mother's father, James Cully Smith, was a descendant of the Smiths of Norham, - the landed gentry of Northumberland. He arrived in South Australia aged eighteen, and worked a bullock team. He married Eliza Ball in Adelaide in 1844. The Ball's daughter Margaret married John Baker in December 1879 in Goldsborough, where the Smith and Baker families were both temporarily settled. Euphemia Eleanor (Effie) was born on 25 March 1880, the first of nine children. Jack (born 1881) moved for a time to Eaglehawk, New Zealand, before settling in Dingee in Victoria. Esther (born 1883) remained at home with their mother. George (b. 1887) died in infancy, and Suzie (b. 1891) was killed in 1910, tragically, by a Melbourne tram. Lynne (1885), Jess (1889), Jim (1893), Pete (1896) and Beth (1898), mostly married and moved to other parts of Victoria. Effie travelled, adventured, and returned, and was the last of her family to live at Goldsborough.
From the age of six Effie lived with her grandparents in Ballarat. It was a much larger town than Goldsborough, making it easier to attend school. The younger Baker household at Goldsborough was, besides, expanding rapidly, and already had three additional children to feed, cloth, and house. The move to live with grandparents would in these circumstances have been a likely option. Henry Baker had made the move to Ballarat in 1873 to establish the Oddie Observatory (now the Ballarat Observatory). In that year at an exhibition in Melbourne he had won a silver medal for his astronomical work, and had subsequently constructed a 26-inch telescope for the Observatory. He later secured the prestigious task of re-polishing the mirror of Melbourne Observatory's cassegrain telescope. Henry Baker evidently possessed considerable technical ingenuity. On the voyage to Australia he had constructed a dynamo with which to provide his cabin with electric light, and in 1855 he had constructed the first horse-drawn rock-crushing mill on the Bendigo goldfields. His fame spread in the region, and his granddaughter was evidently amongst his admirers. From him she acquired an enthusiasm for science, for observation, and for the use of technical instruments, which she later employed in her own creative endeavours.
Effie was just twelve when Henry Baker died in May 1892. It was a loss she felt for the rest of her life. Her father, John Baker, died of "miner’s disease", now known as emphysema – the result of inhalation of dust, in 1915. It was, however, a culture of enterprise, and Effie seems to have had in her character the ability to make the most of the opportunities available to her. Uncle William Baker (her father's brother), a schoolteacher at Green Hill (a small town near Kyneton, northeast of Ballarat), was among those who took considerable interest in her welfare from her earliest years until after her travel abroad. Thus with the help of such family members, most of whom either painted, drew, or played the piano, she received the best education possible for a Victorian country girl at the turn of the century. She studied music under locally renowned pianist Edgar Nicolas (in 1892, at twelve years of age she won second and third prizes for piano performances at Ballarat's "South Street Eisteddfod"). Away from the schoolyard she explored the countryside on a white pony named "nugget".
Effie's lasting vocation, however, was in the visual arts. After attending Clarendon School, Mount Pleasant State School and Grenville College, she attended the Ballarat East Art School, then Carew-Smyth's Art School, and Beulie College. Having received a thorough grounding in colour and composition Effie became increasingly interested in the new science of photography. When still a teenager, she was presented with a quarter-plate camera by aunt Pheme (Henry Baker's sister). With this Effie took photos while on holidays in Perth in 1898, and around the Ballarat district in 1899, which she developed and printed, and presented in photo albums as gifts to her parents.
One of Effie’s earliest cameras was a No 2A Folding Autographic Brownie manufactured in Toronto, Canada, in 1913. It had four shutter speeds. The slowest, "25", was for "clear" conditions. "B" was a tripod setting for when conditions were "grey, dull, and very dull"; "50" was for ‘Brilliant’ and "100" for capturing ‘moving objects’. A separate lever changed the aperture, according to whether the subject was portrait, near view, average view, distant view, clouds snow, or marine, with the aperture getting progressively smaller.
Effie moved, at the age of 20, to live with aunt Pheme at Black Rock, near Sandringham, on Port Philip Bay. This was much closer to Melbourne, and brought Effie into contact with city life. Miss Baker was a school headmistress, and one of the first women to obtain entrance to the civil service university course in Victoria. Undoubtedly, her independence and success in her career left a lasting impression on Effie, who made her home at Black Rock for the next two decades. There were few women artists in Australia at the turn of the century, and Effie must have been among the most versatile of them. She established a workroom for her tools, materials, and projects. She made children’s toys, and painted wild flowers. She also photographed the wild flowers that grew profusely in the surrounding districts. Melbourne printers T. & H. Hunter published some of these photos in 1914. The booklet, Wild Flowers of Australia, was among the first in Australia to come off a three-colour printing press. Its' pages were tied together with green ribbon, and the mounted photographic plates (5&3/4 inches x 4 inches) were inter-leaved with tissue paper. Wild Flowers of Australia proved immediately successful and went into second (1917), third (1921), and fourth (1922) printings. There were seven prints in the first edition and six in the second, and a combined edition appeared in September 1922. The 1921 edition included a poem by Horace Smith as a frontispiece:
Your voiceless lips, O Flowers!
Are living preachers
Each cup a pulpit, every leaf a book
Supplying to the fancy
from loneliest nook.
A Melbourne newspaper reported that the colours were "faithfully reproduced with exquisite softness through the medium of hand-coloured photographs" and suggested to its readers that the booklet would make an ideal Christmas gift. Whether they did so or not is not known. If they did, however, Effie was as acute with money as with science. She later observed that the greater proportion of the profits seem to have been retained by the printers and retailers. In addition to her photographic work, and her painting of wildflowers, Effie worked with wood. Some of her work appeared in the "Women's Work in War Time" exhibition in the Sydney Town Hall in September 1916. Later, when sailing for England, she wrote an essay about her work for publication in the ship's paper:
"Toys for Australian Children"
Perhaps how I came to think about them may be interesting. Just after the war broke out, the Arts and Crafts Society held a sale of work in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund. Each member was asked to contribute. I was tired of painting wild-flower studies so I made a set of doll's furniture in three-ply wood upholstered in mauve leather. It was greatly admired and I was asked by the Arts and Crafts Committee if I could make some for Xmas sale. It was then that I began to think that there was no reason why Australian children should not have Australian toys. Possibly the fact would not have been realized but for the shortage of foreign made toys, brought about by the war.
I think I can safely say I was the first to recognize the possibility of the toy making trade. I had no special training in the work, but was always fond of tools and then the idea came to me, of creating toys typically Australian, and ones that would appeal to the developing minds of the young and of something that would encourage a child to use its hands to exercise its brains and so develop the constructing faculty. My first attempt was a small dolls house of 3 ply wood and so constructed that a small child could build it up and take it down again. Each piece fitting one into the other. Another original design I adapted the Biblical version of Noah's Ark into an Australian setting, substituting a bark hut for the traditional ark, representing Noah and wife as a blackfellow and his lubra, and the animals Australian fauna. This toy the child also is able to construct and then take to pieces again.
Expanding toys which open and expand on the lazy tong or hat-rack system upon which I put a procession of emus and kangaroos, with a native boomerang thrower bringing up the rear, was most popular. A flock of geese and fowls being fed were other designs. Dolls' furniture with raffia used to represent cane work. Dolls' houses all sorts and sizes with furniture complete.
After constructing the ark the child arranged Noah, wife and animals on a map of Australia which expanded when they were ready to enter the ark. Always my endeavour was to weave some purpose or meaning into each specimen I created and to keep a high class standard of toy. I think my efforts were rewarded by the demands made for my goods. Owing to ill-health I was obliged to cease work for some time. But I hope to return to our sunny land with renewed health and vigour and with many fresh and novel ideas to gladden youthful Australian hearts.3
Effie was small and energetic in appearance. She stood just 160cm (5'3"), and had blue eyes and light brown hair. Although she did not marry, she had not gone without suitors. At one time she had a close friend, Wally Watkin, but the two did not marry. Effie had chosen to care for her grandmother and her aunt, and Wally, not caring to wait, had evidently married someone else. Thereafter, it does not appear that Effie was romantically linked to other men.4 Her decision not to marry meant that she had to be self reliant in an era when women's pay was significantly lower than men's. Initially, Effie's economic situation was eased by inheritance of houses from her grandparents and her aunt. But each of these was eventually sold, the latter in order to finance her travel abroad. Opportunities for new experiences took precedence over financial security.
Effie's formative years provided the training for the important work that followed. By the time she encountered the Bahá'í Faith through Clara and Hyde Dunn late in 1922, Effie was mature both personally and professionally. Her character was humble, restrained, and disciplined. She had established herself as a successful freelance artisan, competent in fretwork, photography and painting. Her abilities in photography, model making and painting, refined in the Victorian countryside - together with the simple pleasantry of her personality - resulted in her becoming one of the first Western Bahá'ís to live for an extended period in Haifa. Not only did she make a distinct contribution to the early establishment of the Bahá'í Faith in Australia, and to the visual documentation of Bahá'í history both in Palestine and Iran: her perilous and arduous journey through Iran and Iraq taking the photos to accompany Shoghi Effendi's published translation of The Dawnbreakers provides an enduring accomplishment for which she received - on her own insistence - the barest of renown.
By 1922, Effie had moved to Beaumaris in Melbourne. Although not a regular churchgoer, she considered herself a good Christian. Her Methodist upbringing had provided her with a sound knowledge of the Christian tradition (at least from the Protestant viewpoint), and her interest in spirituality was on going. Perhaps for this reason she remained open to new ideas in such matters. Ruby Beaver, a good friend who was also involved in craftwork, shared her interest in exploring the many new beliefs and creeds under discussion in Melbourne. Together they attended meetings of the Theosophical Society, the New Thought movement, and other spiritualist groups. Late in the year, they were assisting Dr Julia Seton Seers, a Californian medical doctor who had recently arrived in Melbourne to promote New Thought through her "New Civilisation Centre". Ruby Beaver's chosen role was to stand at the front door to greet people as they arrived for each meeting. For this habit she received from her friends the nick name "Pete", after St. Peter, who is said to greet new souls at the entrance to heaven. The movement known as New Thought originated in North America. It emphasised the power of constructive thinking, and the imminence of a "new age". Although inspired by Christian doctrine, it was a philosophical and mental therapeutics as much as religious movement, and its appeal to many lay in the openness with which it approached discussion of religious ideas - although many matters of belief it left ill defined.
The role of women in church life was coming under increasing scrutiny in the post-war years. For most Australian women, "church work" implied attending services with the family on Sundays, or fund raising through holding bazaars and fetes. Effie was one such woman, who expressed her support for the social good through the sale of arts and crafts. She did not question this. To the contrary, such sales had provided the outlet for her products, and the means for the talents to become more widely known. The spirit of the time, nevertheless, was one that favoured the emancipation of women. It was paralleled, in the field of religion, by women's desire for greater roles of religious authority and responsibility.
Many Australians became disillusioned with their traditional church life. Some had been disappointed by the support given to Australian military involvement in the first world war by the major Protestant denominations, and had now withdrawn from regular church attendance. Graphic accounts of the carnage of the Great War had also created for some doubts as to the supremacy of "western civilisation". Effie's brothers had fought in the war. Jack enlisted from New Zealand, and was repatriated there at the war's end. Jim served in the Australian Light Horse Regiment. The experiences of these brothers as told to their family through letters, and later through first-hand accounts, no doubt alerted Effie and the whole Baker family more forcefully than at any time previously to the horrible realities of war.
Whether it was these influences or others more personal, Effie's encounter with the Bahá'í Teachings through Hyde Dunn late in 1922 proved a turning point in her life. At a meeting in October Effie noted a new face in the audience and remarked to Ruby "Look at that man in the audience, what a light he has on his face." The following week this visitor addressed the audience. Hyde Dunn had lived for many years in California, although he was English by birth. He and had become a Bahá'í in 1905, and about two years later had introduced Clara Holder to the Bahá'í teachings. Clara, raised in Ireland, had married then moved to Canada while still a teenager. The death of her husband in a railway accident had left her with a son, and widowed, at an early age. She later moved to the West Coast of the United States. Hyde had also been married, but he had no children. Some time after the death of his first wife, Hyde married Clara.
The Bahá'í religion originated in Persia, the country now known as Iran, in the last century. Its Prophet-founder, Bahá'u'lláh, claimed in 1863 to be the bearer of a divinely-revealed message that was vital to the renewal of religious faith in the world, and to the accomplishment of world peace. Bahá'u'lláh spoke of the common origin of all the major world religions, of the unity of God, His messengers, and the peoples and cultures of the world. The primary purpose of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation is to educate humankind in the spiritual and social values, which can provide the basis for the inevitable transition of many diverse peoples, social and religious traditions into a harmonious global society.
Bahá'u'lláh, his immediate family, and a number of his followers, were exiled and imprisoned for their efforts. A far greater number were put to death at the hands of fanatic Islamic opponents and despotic government officials. At his death in the Ottoman province of Palestine in 1892, after forty years of imprisonment, leadership of the Bahá'í community passed to his eldest son, and fellow prisoner and exile, `Abdu'l-Bahá. "The Master", as 'Abdu'l-Bahá was known, became free in 1908, and undertook in old age several journeys from Palestine to Europe and to North America for the purpose of advancing the Bahá'í cause.
Both Clara Holder and Hyde Dunn were fortunate to meet `Abdu'l-Bahá when he travelled to San Francisco in 1911. The Dunns would have remained in California had they not read, soon after the close of the First World War, his call for the Bahá'ís of North America to spread the Bahá'í teachings throughout the world. The Dunns were among the handful of Bahá'ís who responded to `Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan. Noting his references to Australia, and to the "South Seas", they emigrated in 1920. Bahá'í beliefs had been referred to in Australian newspapers and journals, but active promotion of them in the antipodes commenced with the Dunns' arrival. They had no more than a few pounds in savings, but the intensity of their spiritual convictions soon brushed aside such limitations, and from a condition of near poverty they moved out into the Australian expanse, expending all their earnings, energy, and earnestness in service of their chosen goal. Hyde acquired a position as travelling salesman for the Bacchus Marsh Milk Company (soon after acquired by Nestles). While travelling to various cities and towns on business, he devoted his spare hours to speaking of the Bahá'í principles from public platforms.
On the night of Hyde Dunn's address to the New Civilization Centre in Melbourne in October 1922, Hyde prefaced his talk with both a prayer, and a Hidden Word of Bahá'u'lláh:
O Son of Spirit! Free thyself from the worldly bond, escape from the prison of self, appreciate the value of time for it will never come again nor a like opportunity.
This passage has since been translated as:
O My Servant!
Free thyself from the fetters of this world, and loose thy soul from the prison of self. Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more.
Whatever the quality of the earlier translation, it was the idea that arrested Effie's attention. Hyde also referred in his address to the need for individual investigation of truth, and this made her realise that she had never scrutinised the religious teachings that had been passed down through her family. Effie's conversion was sudden and complete. The "humble sincerity and faith" with which he spoke, she noted later in a letter to Bahá'ís in Perth, had convinced her of the truth of the Bahá'í teachings. She fully believed she was living in a "new age", and this realisation had been a crucial factor in her decision. As she put it later:
It suddenly dawned upon me: Why! I was born and christened a Christian, my forbears were Christians for centuries. I certainly have never investigated truth for myself. After the principles, Mr Dunn gave a short account of the history of the Bahá'í Faith and immediately proved to me that the Bab, the forerunner or "Herald" of the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, was the same as John the Baptist who proclaimed the coming of Jesus the Christ. I went immediately and declared myself as accepting the Bahá'í message.
Effie Baker was the second Australian to become a Bahá'í. A short time earlier a Sydney optometrist, Oswald Whitaker, had met Hyde in Lismore in northern New South Wales, when both men were there on business. In an age before television and so many other modern diversions, it was common for travellers to converse at night in the lounges of the hotels in which they were staying. Hyde was an engaging and experienced conversationalist and the encounter one evening with a group of men quite sceptical in matters of religion led to his first success in attracting a soul on Australian soil to his beloved Faith. The sceptics had summoned Mr Whitaker from his room to refute Hyde Dunn's religious ideas, but rather than defeating Mr Dunn, Mr Whitaker found his "clever questions" to be answered, and to the dismay of his fellows, soon professed himself a Bahá'í. By 1923, there were five Bahá'ís in the country: Clara and Hyde Dunn, Oswald Whitaker, Effie Baker, and Ruby ("Pete") Beaver.
Meeting Clara and Hyde Dunn, and declaration of her faith in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, transformed Effie's life. She absorbed the essential teachings, and learnt also about the system of Bahá'í administration then being established by Bahá'í communities in many different countries under the guidance of Shoghi Effendi, grandson of `Abdu'l-Bahá. Shoghi Effendi had been designated "Guardian" of the Faith in his grandfather's Will, and had assumed this responsibility upon `Abdu'l-Bahá's death in 1921. He was now engaged in establishing the Bahá'í administrative institutions which had been referred to in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá. These included, at local level, bodies known as "Local Spiritual Assemblies", comprising nine members elected by secret ballot from among all Bahá'ís living in a particular city, for the purpose of overseeing that community's affairs. Effie joined the Dunns in urging the Local Assemblies, as they were gradually established in the major cities, to work and consult together, act jointly, and aspire to exemplifying the Bahá'í principles in all their activities.
Effie had found in the Dunns two intimate friends. She was in her forties; they were a generation older (Hyde was born in 1855, Clara in 1869). She called them her "spiritual parents" and when writing to them, signed as their "loving daughter". The Dunns had only recently begun the enterprise of introducing the Bahá'í teachings in Australia, and were seeking ways to expand the community. Its numbers did not rise dramatically, but those who did join were close-knit, sharing friendship and the privileges and responsibilities of being Bahá'ís.
To Effie, religion was a practical matter. Happily, the circumstances in which she now found herself gave her the opportunity to express her religious ideals in practical terms. She grasped the universal vision of the Bahá'í ideals, and then expressed them tangibly in her relationships with others. She had been a private person, and quiet, but not necessarily shy. She was interested in people, and had the capacity to relate well with others, whether young or old. Before becoming a Bahá'í Effie's friendships had centred on her work in art, craft, model making, and photography. Now the small but growing community of Bahá'ís in which she found herself expanded her circle; and her position as one of the first members on the continent thrust her into the unaccustomed role of mentor, and advisor.
The elements of Effie's belief are recorded in her letters written to fellow Bahá'ís for passing on Bahá'í principles and laws that she had learnt from the Dunns. She described `Abdu'l-Bahá, the Centre of Bahá'u'lláh's "Covenant", as her spiritual guide and helper. She spoke of firmness in this Covenant and obedience to Bahá'u'lláh's laws and commands as the best method for uniting hearts, and achieving brotherhood and sisterhood, and for eliminating all prejudices. Bahá'u'lláh's revelation made this a "wonderful age" to live in, she wrote, an age in which the outpouring of the Holy Spirit had produced a light which flooded the universe. Bahá'u'lláh was likened to a physician whose medicine, if taken, could cure the ills of the world, and the Bahá'í teachings were described as a method for freeing one's self from worldly bonds. A "pure, kindly and radiant heart" would best attract the power of the word of God. It was important for Bahá'ís to put the Bahá'í principles into action, to reflect them in their daily lives, rather than to merely talk about them. Effie then reminded her correspondents that since Clara and Hyde Dunn sacrificed so much to bring this potent message to Australia that was important for all Bahá'ís to work harmoniously with them toward the establishment of a new world order.
The "Bahá'í life" required spiritual exercises, in addition to concern for social reform, and Effie was much influenced by the act of prayer, as practiced by Clara and Hyde Dunn. In writing from Hobart to "Pete" Beaver, Effie shared the advice they had given her regarding prayer during the period of the Bahá'í fast:
Father says that we are to sleep but engage in prayer as much as possible. You have to rise in time to first say the prayer then Mother says say the prayer for Remover of Difficulties 95 times (this takes over 20 minutes) then the Greatest Name 95 times, then breakfast before sunrise. Mother says you say the Remover of Difficulties prayer for the 19 mornings and on the last morning offer up the petition for the difficulty you want removed - say we want this movement to establish peace and unity amongst mankind - ask for it, and that all difficulties to prevent it be removed.
These exercises suggested by the Dunns took the practice of prayer beyond the formal requirements, and show the personal preferences, which they were free to adopt. No doubt, Effie learnt later, whether during pilgrimage or beforehand, that the only obligation on Bahá'ís with regard to prayer is that they choose one of three "obligatory" prayers to say once in every 24 hours. Following recitation of the longest obligatory prayer is the repetition of the "Greatest Name" 95 times. Effie's letter to Miss Beaver early in 1924 is indicative of her earnestness at even this early stage to share with her friends insights into Bahá'í teachings and practices - an activity she continued to the great advantage of the Australian Bahá'ís when she later resided in Haifa.
The Dunns had not intended to remain permanently in Melbourne, and made plans to journey to New Zealand in December 1922. Response in Auckland far outstripped that found previously in Sydney and Melbourne. On the second evening following their arrival the Dunns met Sarah Blundell, an English-born woman from a devout Christian family who had heard of `Abdu'l-Bahá's travels in Europe and who had long considered herself a Bahá'í. Sarah Blundell's daughter Ethel had read in 1912 about 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to London, published in The Christian Commonwealth. Through Mrs Blundell, the Dunns met Amy Stevenson, who had also heard about Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to London. Others met during this visit included Emily Axford, Margaret Stevenson's sisters Lilias and Amy, and Bertram Dewing and his mother Amy Dewing - each of whom contributed significantly to establishing the first Auckland Bahá'í group. Clara Dunn remained with the New Zealand Bahá'ís for three months while Hyde returned to Melbourne in January 1923 to resume work commitments.
Following the Dunn's successful visit to New Zealand there were now Bahá'ís in Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland. In the next two years, additional communities were established with Effie's assistance, in Hobart and Perth. By April 1923 large Bahá'í gathering were held in Melbourne on Friday nights, with up to one hundred and fifty people present. Most who took the step of identifying with the Bahá'í "movement" (as it was then called) were women: Mrs Margaret Dixson, Mrs Harris, Mrs Richards, Mrs Culbert, Mrs Potter, Mrs Withers (who was Effie's cousin), Mrs McLeod, Mrs Thornton, Mrs Laws, and Miss Hastings. Near the close of 1923, on 9 December, the Melbourne Bahá'ís elected the first Local Spiritual Assembly in Australia.
Effie was naturally closely involved with establishing this Assembly, but the circumstances of her life were changing, and she began to travel. This may have been on medical advice. Effie was now in her forties. Over many years of painting, she had accumulated dangerous levels of lead in her body through the habit of wetting her brush with her tongue rather than with water. Her health had deteriorated to the extent that she could no longer work constantly. A change of scenery, and rest, were required. In hindsight, we observe that she got the change of scenery. In the first half of 1924, Effie travelled with Clara and Hyde. They were in Hobart from January to March, and in Perth from April to July. Then, together with Bahá'í traveller Martha Root Effie then visited Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, and the Australian cities of Sydney, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne and Adelaide.
The first adventure, in January 1924, was to Hobart. Effie, Clara and Hyde rented a cottage at Sandy Bay. Fellow Melbourne Bahá’í Miss Hastings joined them. Hyde kept busy by day with business, and by night spoke about the Bahá'í Faith from public platforms, or else met new friends in their homes. There were several expressions of interest in the Bahá'í message, notably from Gretta Lamprill, a Hobart nurse. She, like some of the first New Zealand Bahá'ís, recalled press reports of ’Abdu'l-Bahá's travels from her childhood. On hearing that Bahá'ís were meeting in Hobart Miss Lamprill made sure to attend. She, like Effie, embraced the new Faith unreservedly and swiftly, and formed a close friendship with Clara and Hyde Dunn. Later she was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly for Australia and New Zealand, and in the 1950s travelled to the Pacific Islands, taking the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh to Tahiti.
These were special days; each one lived to the full, each adding to the store of treasured memories, which sustained Effie in the many years of service that followed. After two months in Hobart she, Clara, and Hyde, departed by train for Perth. The journey to the west coast took five days, about which Effie wrote to Ruby:
We had a lovely trip over and the journey wasn't at all wearying and it is very interesting. Saw a few blacks at some of the stations crossing the desert. It wasn't at all dreary as I imagined it would be. The soil is reddish in colour and covered with a little shrub of bluish colour (salt bush) and mallee scrub, etc. The train trip is fine. Meals good, sleeping accommodation fine. We weren't a scrap tired when we landed and mother was fine all along the journey. I sent you a 'gram from Kalgoorlie.
They lodged at the Hotel Esplanade overlooking the Swan River while searching for a suitable house to rent. On securing one in Havelock Street, West Perth, the three recommenced the routine familiar to them from their Tasmanian days. Hyde engaged in business by day, Clara made new friends, and Effie worked at her craft. They organised a series of Bahá'í meetings in the "Blue Gum Tea Rooms", which they advertised in the Perth newspapers. Martha Root, an American Bahá'í who was travelling the world promoting the Bahá'í Teachings, had notified the Dunns that she was about to reach Australia, and Hyde shared this news with his "Tea Rooms" audiences. For Effie, meeting Miss Root was another vital strand in her unfolding adventure.
Martha Root came from Pennsylvania in the United States. She was an experienced journalist at the time she heard of the Bahá'í Faith in 1908. In the years since she had travelled through South America, Europe, and Asia promoting the Bahá'í message. When she arrived in Melbourne in June 1924, she had just been in China, Hong Kong, and Indochina. Her arrival in Australia was greatly appreciated by the small Bahá'í communities that had so recently commenced in the major cities.1 to many of the new members (most of whom were women), Martha Root epitomised the peace activist they aspired to become. Her presence was vitalising, to Effie, and opened a completely new world of possibilities. She exemplified the dedicated advocate who rose to promote ideas and principles in which she believed. "Though frail in body," she wrote of Martha to the Perth Bahá'ís in September 1924, "she ever goes forward to do the Master's work, her implicit obedience to His command, full trust and faith in His help and guidance is a lesson to us all." 2
Miss Root was greeted by the Melbourne Bahá'ís, and handed a ticket for the five-day journey by train to Perth. The "Tea Room" talks and other activities the Dunns and Effie had established a small Bahá'í group. It included Annie and William Miller, Herbert and Rose Webb, and Mrs Kenworthy. The Millers had migrated from Scotland to Western Australia in 1909 and had struggled to make a living on the land before moving to Perth in 1924. They had known John Esslemont, author of the well-known work Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, and had enthusiastically attended Hyde Dunn's lectures. The more affluent Webb family resided at Claremont. Herbert Webb operated a real estate business from the Colonial Mutual Building at 53 St. George's Terrace in the city centre. These and other new Bahá'ís now had the good fortune to meet such an ardent advocate of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh as Martha Root, who, according to her biographer, gave thirty-eight lectures in Perth that July:
A special event, with admission charge, was a lecture on "The Great Renaissance of China," held in the Literary Institute. On the stage was a map of China and immense flags of every country. The Chinese of Perth came in a body, the American consul sat on the platform with Martha, and she was introduced by the Mayor.3
Two special events concluded Miss Root's stay in Perth. One, on 19 July, was the formation of a Local Spiritual Assembly by the Perth Bahá'í community, now grown to a membership of thirty-six.4 On 28 July, Miss Root gave her first ever talk through the new technology known as radio. In early August the four travellers - Effie, Miss Root, and Clara and Hyde Dunn - returned by train to Melbourne, where Miss Root gave twenty-five lectures in as many days:
The publicity was extraordinary, and everywhere she was showered with attention. Receptions were given before or after talks; there were teas with Martha as guest of honour; announcements of open houses were made for the discussion of the Faith. Officialdom welcomed her, and an admirer presented her with five thousand Bahá'í booklets that he had printed.5
Miss Root's first Melbourne lecture was to an Esperanto group that subsequently invited her to present a radio broadcast on the Bahá'í writings concerning the need for an international language.6 In the Australian Church Hall she spoke at a meeting co-sponsored by the Melbourne Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Esperantists, and the Peace Society of the Australian Church. Her later talk at the Australian Church on "The Great Renaissance of China" drew an audience of 350, including some 50 Chinese.
At one of her Melbourne meetings Miss Root attracted into the Bahá'í community Major Norman McLeod, who later received from Shoghi Effendi an important letter detailing the Bahá'í attitude to racism and to the "White Australia" policy.7 On another night she addressed an audience of Socialists, Bolshevists, IWW's (International Workers of the World), atheists and agnostics, on "The new phase of the economic problem". One result of this last appointment was an invitation to Miss Root to address the Women's Labour Group. She also spoke to the Theosophists, to all of Melbourne's Spiritualist Churches, the Psychological Club, the Chinese Club, the New Civilisation Centre, and the Occult Church - which subsequently offered its Sunday evening platform to a Bahá'í speaker once a month. A doctor offered his home for meetings, and three evenings were spent there answering the questions of enquirers.8
The Melbourne Bahá'ís were greatly invigorated by all this activity sparked by Miss Root's presence, very soon after secured for themselves a regular meeting room at the Henry George Club. Office-bearers were appointed at a meeting on 11 September, and Effie donated five pounds so that the group could begin a Bahá'í library. Meetings were advertised in the city's newspapers, the Age and the Argus (A photo of these Melbourne Bahá'ís subsequently appeared in the second volume of Bahá'í World, p. 29).
After almost four weeks in Melbourne, the time had come for Miss Root and Miss Baker to move on to speaking engagements in other cities. In Sydney, in October, Miss Root lectured for nine days.9 Her first talk was at a reception for 200 people hosted by the English Speaking Union at the Astor Tea Rooms, at which the guests of honour were herself, and Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Lady Smith (Sir Charles being the first aviator to fly from London to Sydney). After sharing the limelight with Sir Charles, Miss Root hurried on to address the Chinese Nationalist Club - one result being publication of an article in the Chinese Times. The following Sunday afternoon, she explained in one of her long letters to friends at home, she had the experience of speaking in Sydney's famed open-air forum:
Sunday afternoon a talk was given in the open air, in the Domain Park, before the Labour Party. I stood on a big auto truck and "shouted" - There was an immense crowd, at least a thousand. The same evening a lecture was given in the New Thought Centre and the hall was crowded.10
On Monday Miss Root made a radio broadcast on "Esperanto as a Universal Language" On other days she spoke to the Theosophists, the Women’s League of NSW, and the Esperantists. From Sydney, Effie and Martha made plans to visit New Zealand. They cabled the New Zealand Bahá'ís to say they were arriving on the 15th (and then they arrived a day early). The Auckland Assembly hurried to make plans. For two whole weeks, Miss Root fulfilled a demanding speaking schedule in Auckland and Wellington. She wrote to friends about her schedule, the New Zealand Bahá'ís, and her new Australian friend and travelling companion:
Auckland was my ideal of heaven, and of the perfect way a Bahá'í campaign should be conducted. Every door opened. Drawing room talks in the homes of the friends, Lyceum Women's Club; Labour Party Meeting in Strand Theatre, two thousand present; Tea with Labor leaders of New Zealand; National Council of Women; Blind Institute of Auckland; Four Bahá'í lectures in Society of Arts' Hall; "The Great Renaissance of China Lecture" in the large auditorium of the Society of Arts; Auckland Teachers' Training College' two lectures at Y.W.C.A.; Lecture to Comrades' Boys Club; Labor Party; Leys' Institute Boys' Club and All Saints' Church; Feast at Mrs Dewing's Home; Broadcasting; first public Bahá'í lecture in any Church in New Zealand, address in the Unitarian Church of Auckland; Theosophical Society; Chinese Nationalist Club; Rotary Club. These lectures were given in twelve days. The visit in the home of Misses Margaret, Amy and Lilias Stevenson, Bahá'ís, seemed like the days in the home of Mary and Martha, the spiritual fragrance was so sweet. The Bahá'ís of Auckland are so efficient, so dynamic, so SWEET that I know Father and Mother Dunn and the Supreme Concourse must be very happy over them... Sweet Effie Baker, Bahá'í from Melbourne, who is travelling with me through Australia and New Zealand, we two are just "watering the seeds" and helping the new assemblies that "father" and "mother" Dunn have so lovingly planted.11
Margaret Stevenson, the first New Zealand Bahá'í, had read in a 1911 issue of The Christian Commonwealth about Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to London. Her friend Dorothy Spinney, who actually met Abdu'l-Bahá in London and who had sent that newspaper article to Margaret, shared her experiences first hand when she visited New Zealand the following year. By 1916, Margaret was in correspondence with North American Bahá'ís, and late in 1922 had met Clara and Hyde Dunn in Auckland. She was now participating in the Auckland Bahá'í community, and became a close friend to both Martha Root and Effie Baker. Other Bahá'ís that Effie first met at this time included Margaret's sisters Amy and Lilias Stevenson, Mrs Amy Dewing, and Mrs Sarah Blundell and her children Ethel and Hugh.
The Stevenson sisters gave Miss Root a reception at their home, and Amy Dewing opened her home on two Saturday evenings. The Auckland Bahá'ís assisted their heroic visitor pay for her tour by raising an additional two pounds two shillings to match the money she had collected at her lecture on China. Miss Root and Effie stayed at the Hotel Grand Central, preparing their own meals at a cost of five shillings per day.
Effie stayed in the background during Martha's speaking engagements. Reports in the New Zealand Herald do not mention her. Away from the spotlight, however, Effie took responsibility for making the travel arrangements, and doing all she could to make Martha's days and nights more comfortable. They travelled south to Wellington, New Zealand's capital, where for two and a half days Miss Root lectured constantly. There were two Bahá'ís in Wellington, and another two in the nearby town of Nelson. On her first day in Wellington Miss Root gave five lectures - the most, she said, that she had ever delivered in a single day. She commenced at the Masonic Hall at 2.30pm, then the Pioneer Women's Club at 3.45pm, the Theosophical Society at 7pm, the Trades Hall at 8pm, and Chinese Nationalist Club at 9.15pm. The following day she addressed both the Mens and Women’s Labour parties. Three newspaper articles resulted from this visit to Wellington.12 Despite so much effort, however, there were no thinkers or activists in Wellington at this time interested in establishing a Bahá'í study group.
While Martha Root spoke in Wellington Effie visited her brother Jack on the South Island. The two then returned to Australia, across a sea which Martha described as "one of those little purgatories with a Heaven on each side"13 They arrived in Sydney October 7, and remained ten days before sailing for Hobart. In Sydney as elsewhere their time was fully occupied, and one of the Sydney Bahá'ís hosted a farewell reception in their honour before their departure.14
Hotel Grand Central
Dear Miss Gretta,
I'm just writing a hurried note to tell you that Martha and I are leaving by the "Riviera" on Friday 17th inst. for Hobart. Martha has decided to come to Tasmania for a week. We have had a very successful time in New Zealand and Martha feels the urge to go to Hobart. We will arrive on Sunday 19th. I wonder if you could recommend any place to stay? It must be a central hotel and of course inexpensive. We are at the Grand Central and our rooms here are 5/-. We prefer to get our own meals but I daresay there will be a comfortable and inexpensive place in Hobart. A Miss McLoughlin will probably join us from Melbourne. Give my love to Mrs Raudell and Trixie if they are still in Hobart (I do not know).
Hoping to see you soon
In His Name,
Nine days were spent in Hobart and Launceston. Together with Kate ("Kitty") McLoughlin from Melbourne they stayed at a boarding house whose keeper was well known to the Dunns. Effie negotiated with commercial outlets in Hobart for the sale of some of her flower booklets and pictures.
The Hobart Bahá'ís were meeting at this time Mrs Crowe's home in Sandy Bay. Already few in number, they were soon further reduced. Mr Jenner, an Englishman and cousin of English Bahá'í Mrs Rosenberg, was about to return to his home country. Mr Bacon and Mr Bremmer also left Tasmania. Only Miss Scholes, Miss Stokill, Mr Bennetts, and Gretta Lamprill remained. Of these, only Miss Lamprill showed keen interest in Bahá'í affairs. Miss Root spoke in the Congregational Memorial Church, and contacted newspapers and organizations, but the bonds of affection and friendship established with Gretta Lamprill were on this occasion as important as any new contacts made. Gretta accompanied the three travellers to Launceston, and watched them depart by boat from her small and remote island.16 When Miss Root returned to Tasmania in 1939 she still possessed the precious ring and prayer beads given her by Miss Root on this first visit.17
It was approaching the end of 1924, and Martha Root was soon to sail for South Africa. She and Effie spent four days together in Melbourne. Then, still accompanied by Kitty McLoughlan, they joined the Dunns and the other Bahá'í friends in South Australia. Here news arrived that decided Effie's own plans. Miss Root had learnt when in New Zealand that a number of the New Zealand Bahá'ís were planning to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land early in 1925 and had urged Effie to join them. As Clara Dunn explained to a friend:
Martha cabled for permission and a cable came back "welcome" ...this is a beautiful thing that Australia as well as New Zealand will have a pilgrim and a teacher to return - she may not be well and strong yet, but she is a great deal stronger than when she came to us and this trip may bring her good health.18
Feelings of happiness and expectation filled the Dunn's home during the last months of 1924. Miss Root's presence and her prodigious talent in service to the Faith had produced a profound sense of joy that was shared by those around her. For Effie, too, confirmation of her plans to travel abroad for the first time sustained a mood of hopeful anticipation. The excitement felt by all was tempered, however, by awareness of Miss Root's imminent departure.
There was, too, an active program to complete in Adelaide, just as there were many details for Effie to attend to now that she also was to sail overseas. The Dunns and the Adelaide Bahá'ís had prepared Miss Root's speaking schedule, and toward its end, twenty-five guests attended a function in her honour at the Grosvenor Hotel. On 13 November, after five months sacrificial effort in Australia, Miss Root sailed for South Africa. She went laden with gifts. The Dunns gave her with powdered milk and chocolate (Nestles, we presume!), Chinese tea, and a dozen oranges. Effie made her several summer dresses, complete with hand-stitched lace. At the last she gave Martha a supply of cracker biscuits and tucked a number of other small gifts into her luggage.19
Dear Gretta and Trixie,
How we will all miss her. She certainly has done a wonderful job in Australia and I am glad to say is leaving us every so much better than when she came. I think I shall stay another two or three weeks. Kitty went back late Saturday. She had a very busy time with us. Mr Almond and his wife took us for a lovely motor ride in the national park right up in the hills. It was a lovely day and the view was fine. Please excuse me not writing but I have so much to do and friends have come in so it is difficult to collect my thoughts. Father and Mother are well and they are working very hard (as usual).20
Effie and the Dunns stayed several more weeks in Adelaide. There was much work to do in the build-up to the formation of the first Local Spiritual Assembly there. More than twenty members gathered at the Dunn's North Adelaide flat on 5 December for that important event. Effie had been elected to the first Local Assembly, established in Melbourne in December 1923. She had attended the formation of Perth's Assembly in July 1924. Now she had witnessed the formation of the third Australian Assembly, in Adelaide. Their work for the moment complete in Adelaide, Clara and Hyde, and Effie, returned to reside at "Belmont" in Clarendon St, East Melbourne. Here they awaited the arrival of the New Zealanders, the other members of the first antipodean Bahá'í pilgrimage.
A photo of Effie with Martha Root and Margaret Stevenson and Clara and Hyde Dunn appears in Star of the West February 1925, 15:11, p.314. - check
Here we are on board our boat once again. Happy but weary travellers. It has just been a delight and joy for us all to be with you and your kindnesses to us will live in our hearts. You are certainly each one and all following the command of the "Blessed Perfection" that is to "consort with all the people with love and fragrance".
Fellowship is the cause of unity and unity the source of order in the world. Blessed are they who are kind and serve with love. We shall take you all in our hearts on our journey and send to you our grateful thanks for the happy times we have had during our stay in Adelaide. Our united love to you all,
In His Name
The New Zealand Friends and Effie E. Baker1
Travel by sea to Europe was becoming popular among Australians and New Zealanders, many of who had relatives in England, Scotland, Wales, or Ireland. There were also considerable numbers of Australians whose forebears came from Holland, Germany, and even France. Thus, it was not unusual for Effie, or for her New Zealand companions, to travel to the "mother country." Mrs Blundell had arrived in New Zealand from Cambridgeshire, England, in 1886. Now, at the age of 74 she wished to see her home country once again. Margaret Stevenson and Effie, too, had English relatives to visit. For Effie there was also the excitement of placing some photographs in an English exhibition, (although this does not seem to have been a major reason for her journey, as she hardly mentioned it in later years).
Whereas travel to Britain and to the European continent was popular, breaking one's journey in the Middle East was more "exotic." To Australians, whose manners and customs were originally European, Eastern cultures seemed so inscrutable, no doubt because of the many resounding differences in the sights and sounds of language, food, dress, and behaviour that people of Eastern cultures displayed. For Effie and her companions, the desire to travel into unfamiliar lands resulted from the fact that the spiritual and administrative centre of the Bahá'í Faith was located, through historical and providential circumstances, in the cities of Haifa and ‘Akká in Palestine. The resting place of the Báb, the prophetic figure who was martyred in Persia in 1850, was on Mt Carmel, a steep and rocky landmass encircling the port of Haifa in what was then the British territory of Palestine. Bahá'u'lláh had died in 1892 outside the prison-city of ‘Akká and was buried in surroundings known as Bahjí. Shoghi Effendi administered the affairs of this infant Faith from the home of his late grandfather, `Abdu'l-Bahá, in Haifa.
A letter written on 26 December 1924 by Shoghi Effendi's secretary, thanking Effie for the letter in which she sought permission to make her pilgrimage, reassured her that her journey would be safe and successful.
"My dear Bahá'í sister, I wish to thank you for your kind letter to our dear Shoghi Effendi, and desire to assure you of his great pleasure to see you here in Haifa, the holy land not only for Jews, Christians but for Bahá'ís also.
We all hope that you will have a pleasant journey from Australia, and will soon find yourself in the warmer country of Palestine. Shoghi Effendi feels that your field of service is very wide in Australia and hopes and prays that you will succeed not only in living a true Bahá'í life but also in attracting new souls to the great message of God.
The family of the Master all join me in the utmost love to the friends there and especially to your own dear self.
Yours in His Service,"
To this letter Shoghi Effendi added in his own handwriting:
My dear precious fellow-worker,
Just a word to assure you personally of my unceasing prayers for your welfare and the success of your glorious efforts for the spread of the Cause. Persevere in teaching, work unceasingly and the victory will be yours.
Your true brother,
Shoghi Effendi's cousin and secretary, Soheil Afnan, also wrote on behalf of `Abdu'l-Bahá's sister Bahíyyih Khánum ("The Greatest Holy Leaf"), to thank Effie for a letter that she had received from her, and to say that all the Bahá'ís in Haifa looked forward to meeting her.
The Auckland Bahá'ís farewelled the Blundells and Margaret Stevenson at a gathering on 21 December and the pilgrims departed for Sydney on 6 January in the New Year. Undeterred by a seaman's strike, which left the 180-berth Largs Bay stranded in Sydney, they tarried several weeks in the company of the Sydney Bahá'ís, finally arriving by train in Melbourne, some 1,000 kilometres to the south on the 21st. The Blundells stayed with relatives, and Margaret Stevenson accommodated with the Dunns.1
Following several weeks spent in the joyful company of Mrs Henderson, Kitty McLaughlan, Amy Thornton, Mrs Stanton, Pete Beaver, Miss Hastings - as well as the Dunns, and in which period Mrs Blundell celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday, the pilgrims departed Melbourne on 10 February. Effie's uncle William Baker and his family, as well as the Melbourne Bahá'ís, came to the dock to bid her bon voyage. The Largs Bay had at last arrived from Sydney, and after leaving Melbourne, berthed at Adelaide and Perth, allowing the travellers to visit friends in both cities before steaming northwest across the Indian Ocean toward Ceylon.
Effie's plan was to make her pilgrimage for about two weeks, spend three months in England, then return to Australia via North America. She had experienced so much that was new in the previous three years and her horizons -social, artistic, and spiritual - had been transformed. Her intention was to return home refreshed, and full of energy with which to assist the Dunns in their work. Clara Dunn wrote to Gretta in Hobart:
We have had Margaret Stevenson with us three weeks before she sailed to Haifa - she brought a sweet spiritual peace with her and left it here when she went away - she is one of His saints and I feel sure was destined to journey to the Holy Spot. Dear Effie seemed to have grown in leaps and bounds and as one friend in Adelaide said when she saw her again as they passed through - she left here a green bud but returned a half blown fragrant rose and this dear is the real truth.
From Adelaide Effie wrote to Pete about the reception given them by the Adelaide Bahá'ís, who included Ron Cover, one of Hyde Dunn's business associates at Nestles:
Here we are and enjoying every minute. I had a lovely trip over. Got in [to Adelaide] at 7.30am. Mr Cover sent word he would be there at 9am. He brought us to the city. Mrs Scotland and Mrs Almond met us. Took us first to the roof garden of Moores Emporium and showed us the view of Adelaide. From there we proceeded to the Botanical Gardens and had lunch with the friends. Spent most of the afternoon there. Mrs Blundell and self dining with Mrs Scotland, Margaret and Miss Blundell with Mrs Cover. Mr Blundell with Mr and Mrs Almond. After tea Mr Cover is taking all of us for a spin in his car up the hills and letting us see the lights of Adelaide from the heights. Tomorrow someone else is taking us in the morning to the gorge. A beautiful spot I believe. We lunch at another garden tomorrow and tea at another spot then return to the boat to sail at midnight. We are all well and happy. Write me Fremantle. Trust you are well. Love from all of us.
The travellers woke at dawn when tugboats pulled the Largs Bay from the dock and set it in the direction of the Great Australian Bight. They reached the port of Fremantle on Wednesday after a rough crossing. It was 18 February, and the travellers were pleased to be on firm ground once more and in the company of Bahá'í friends. They gathered for the evening at the home of Mrs Kenworthy. Margaret and Effie stayed the evening with Mrs Webb at Claremont, and the Blundells with Mrs Miller. Hyde Dunn had organised for the Bahá'ís in each state to sign a letter for the pilgrims to take to Shoghi Effendi. "We are confident," he had written to the Bahá'ís of Perth,
that these blessed pilgrims will carry with them, in their hearts, the love and devotion of every true believer and investigator - that their presence at the holy presence means the presence of all Bahá'í hearts in the Holy Land - their prayers will be our prayers, for we must pray for them during this wonderful and unique privilege to be the first visitors from the Antipodes.. 2
On a Thursday, at 2pm, the Largs Bay departed for Colombo. Mrs Juleff, Vice-President of the Perth Assembly, filed a report that appeared in a local newspaper:
Passengers to Europe and Asia today by the Largs Bay included five pilgrims to Acca, Palestine, to visit the Shrines of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá, the founders of the great movement for the unity of the world's religions, the promulgation of world peace, universal education, a universal language, and an international tribunal. This movement was begun in 1844 in Persia. Over 20,000 martyrs are said to have died for the Cause. It has spread from the east to the west and was taken to America over 30 years ago. There are Bahá'ís numbering over 17 million [sic] in Europe, Asia, and America. Australia was the last to receive the message (about 2 1/2 years ago). There are now assemblies in each of the states. The pilgrims - Mrs S. and Miss Blundell of Remuera, Auckland, Miss Margaret Stevenson, Parnell, Auckland; Miss Effie Baker, Sandringham, Victoria, and Mr H.K. Blundell - were met at Fremantle by local Bahá'ís, and were brought to the home of Mr and Mrs Kenworthy of West Perth to meet other members. After lunch the visitors were taken to the observatory and King's Park. The party will disembark at Port Said and go on to Akka by train, where they will be met by Shoghi Effendi..."The Guardian of the Cause" and Grandson of the late `Abdu'l-Bahá, who died at Acca in 1921. Shoghi Effendi was a student in residence at Oxford University when his grandfather died, and he immediately went back to Palestine to carry on the work.3
Effie, Margaret, and the Blundells found the boat trip most enjoyable. Each made many acquaintances, and all told their fellow-passengers about the principal purpose of their journey. Many on board had their own interesting stories to relate, and some of the travellers were even known to Effie. She met M.A. Doepel, onetime drawing master at Ballarat, who had known her grandfather; Professor Smith, who taught at Perth Technical School; and A. E. Morison, who was taking a world trip with his wife having retiring as superintendent of the Anglo-American Telegraph Company.
Effie wrote an essay for the ship's newspaper, "Toys for Australian Children" (reproduced in chapter one), describing her interest in, and methods of woodwork. On Sundays, she sampled several of the religious services that were held on board. The Congregational service led by Rev. Austin was, she reported in letters home, "broad and liberal." Three young non-denominational evangelists embarked for study in England before peaching in South Africa also spoke. They displayed "the usual style," she recorded, "... but gave according to their light". There was also much time on board to write letters home, and there were sufficient happenings at sea, besides, to keep the travellers amused. On the afternoon of 28 February a black object was sighted that resembled a small boat. A boat was manned and lowered overboard, and a life jacket was thrown toward the object in case any survivors were in desperate need, but the row boat when it came upon the black object found it be nothing more than a floating palm tree.
Another distraction took the form of seven islands of coral fringed by narrow reefs known as "the brothers" which the Largs Bay sailed close by. The most northern island stood, Effie noted, just 33 ft high and 1/4 mile long, and the most southern one a mere 20 ft high and 200 ft long. Abnormal refraction, she observed, had at times allowed the islands to be sighted at a distance of 100 miles. When the boat passed Shachwan Island Effie observed in her notebook its beauty in the moonlight, especially with its tall lighthouse emitting red and white searchlights alternately. They had now reached the entrance to the Gulf of Suez. At 3am, they passed Mount Sinai.
Expectation was mounting, and unfamiliar sights and sounds began to surround the novice travellers. On 11 March, at 10 in the morning, the Largs Bay reached the port of Suez. The first basin of the Suez Canal was entered at 2pm. To Effie it was a landscape "perfectly barren of any verdure" but subject to changing hues as the sunlight played upon it. By evening, there were four more ships in line behind hers, each lit brightly, and the whole scene presenting an exciting spectacle. Ship searchlights played on the banks. The cost of piloting each boat through the canal was, Effie noted - mixing as she was want to do, practical calculations with the romance of the moment - £4,000.
At daybreak, the party arrived at Port Said. Much to their delight and surprise, at 6am, Martha Root appeared on board. She had promised Effie she would leave Durban in South Africa at the end of January and be in Haifa from the beginning of March, ready to welcome the first Australian and New Zealand pilgrims to the spiritual centre of their Faith. On arriving in Port Said, however, she had decided to linger a few days to accompany her Australian and New Zealander friends on the final leg of their journey to Haifa.
All hurried to dress and get on deck when Miss Root indicated that three Bahá'í men were there waiting. Muhammad Mustapha, a young man who worked in the Telegraph Department at Port Said, spoke English quite well, and later that morning assisted the travellers through the perilous Customs Office.4 Another of the Bahá'ís, Mahmoud el Nouchoucaly, made his living by selling cigarettes to passengers of incoming vessels, and in this way met most of the Bahá'í pilgrims passing through the port, and helped them catch the right train for Haifa. The unfamiliar sights and sound began to challenge some of the travellers, with Margaret Stevenson writing to her sisters:
Fortunately, Martha had a letter from someone which enabled us to get through without anything being opened, but it was the confusion and jabber that made it terrible. 5
At the hotel, Miss Root arranged a meeting with Munavvar Khánum, youngest daughter of Abdu'l-Bahá (Khánum's husband Ahmad Yazdi was the Persian Consul in Port Said). Muhammad Mustapha accompanied the pilgrims on the 6pm train from Port Said, back down the Egyptian side of the canal to Kantara East, where they took a small ferry across to Kantara West, their point of entry into Palestine. The train departed at midnight. Miss Root tutored the pilgrims in Farsi phrases with which they could greet Bahiyyih Khanum: "Marr sho mara lilie dous me darram".6
The carriage was quite comfortable, but the pilgrims slept little. They woke early to the foreign landscape of the Sinai and the coast of Palestine: camels and donkeys, Arab villages of mud and tents, orange groves, and sandy desert. Mid-morning, Friday 13 March, they received a warm reception at the Haifa railway station from a man named Fujita, whom Effie described as a "bright merry little fellow." Saichiro Fujita was born in Japan in 1886 and had become a Bahá'í in Oakland, California, in 1905. He had accompanied ’Abdu'l-Bahá briefly when the Master visited the West coast of the United States in 1912, and have been mentioned in press reports.7 In 1919 he had moved to Haifa to personally serve `Abdu'l-Bahá. Now, after two brief years in the service of his Master (`Abdu'l-Bahá had died in November 1921), Fujita was serving Shoghi Effendi:
He is certainly a good Bahá'í general and soon had his little band of Happy Pilgrims marshalled and in order. We were installed into carriages and driven to the Pilgrim House in the Persian Colony which is opposite Abdu'l-Bahá's Home. Here we received another warm welcome from an American Bahá'í Mrs Corrine True. You all would just love her.
The Pilgrimage had begun, and Effie's life was shortly to take a new and quite unanticipated direction.
Followers of Bahá'u'lláh had first travelled to the Holy Land on pilgrimage during the Prophet's lifetime. Initially they were all from the "east" - from Persia, Iraq, and other nearby countries. "Western" pilgrims, from North America, first came to meet `Abdu'l-Bahá in Akka in 1898 Since Shoghi Effendi had become Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith late in 1921 ever larger numbers of Bahá'í pilgrims from an increasing number of countries and cultures were seeking permission to visit the Holy sites which marked the resting places of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, and `Abdu'l-Bahá. The Guardian was now just 28 years old, but bore a mantle of immense responsibility and authority. He was leading the Bahá'ís from East and West, deepening the spiritual basis of their Faith, and at the same time broadening the administrative foundation of the Bahá'í world community.
Corrine True, the eminent American Bahá'í, was first to greet the pilgrims on their arrival at the Western pilgrim house. She was working toward the building of the Mashriqu'ladhkar (House of Worship) near Chicago, and was in Haifa consulting with Shoghi Effendi in her capacity as financial secretary of the organisation responsible for the project, the Bahá'í Temple Unity. On hearing of the pilgrims' arrival Shoghi Effendi conveyed his greetings to the pilgrims through Fujita, and invited them to visit. Fujita escorted them to the Master's (ie 'Abdu'l-Bahá's) House and showed them into the drawing room. Effie recorded:
In a few moments Shoghi Effendi came to greet us. His step was quick and decisive also his manner of speech, but the sweetness of his countenance and the bright alert expression of his eyes conveys to you a wonderful tenderness of heart which radiated to you such graciousness and simplicity, you felt at once at your ease, as if a weight has been removed from your breast, and a great peace reigned. It was a wonderful interview, never to be forgotten.1
Shoghi Effendi enquired after the Bahá'ís in Australia and New Zealand, and asked the pilgrims to convey his love and greetings to them. He promised that he would attempt at some time in the future to visit Australia. Of this first meeting with the Guardian Margaret Stevenson's recorded in her diary:
After a rest and lunch we were taken over to `Abdu'l-Bahá's house to visit Shoghi Effendi. He gave us a very warm welcome in the room where `Abdu'l-Bahá used to welcome the friends, and after talking to us for a while, he went out of the room and sent the ladies in - the Holy Mother (`Abdu'l-Bahá's wife) and one of her daughters. They too gave us a very warm welcome and said how they had been looking forward to our coming. It seems they were so afraid that after the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá that the friends would not come to see them, and so they are delighted to welcome them. They gave us tea before we left, in beautiful little glass tumblers on a glass saucer and little Persian cakes. After dinner we went to bed as we were all very tired.2
The pilgrimage lasted nineteen days. Often Shoghi Effendi accompanied the Persian pilgrims to the Shrine of the Báb, and the Western pilgrims would hear him chant the "Tablet of Visitation". They had the opportunity on each day they that they were in Haifa to pray at the Holy Shrines of the Báb and of `Abdu'l-Bahá. On the second day they were escorted to the Shrine of the Báb by Mrs True. Abbás-Qulí, who was caretaker at the Holy site, chanted Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet of Visitation. Many hours of pilgrimage were spent listening to Rúhá Khánum recount episodes from the lives of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá. Of the holy family Margaret wrote to her sisters:
In the afternoon we again visited the Ladies, where we met the Greatest Holy Leaf and three daughters, when we again got a loving welcome. The Greatest Holy Leaf, `Abdu'l-Bahá's sister is very frail, but Oh such a sweet lovely woman. Indeed the whole family are just beautiful, so sweet, so loving and they are all so spiritual and we have many beautiful, helpful talks with them.3
Effie described a community of almost one hundred residents and pilgrims at the meal table in 1925. Margaret Stevenson recorded of the domestic scene:
Everything is plain but very comfortable, and the food beautifully cooked. Everything is cooked in `Abdu'l-Bahá's house and sent over. They cook for about 80 people. I was afraid I might not like the Eastern dishes but they are very nice, just a bit too rich, but nice to eat. The trouble they go to is wonderful, sometimes 4 or 5 courses for dinner. Fujita waits beautifully. He is a wonderful man, so obliging and always so happy - he is just giving up his life to service, to loving service. He is so jolly too and many a joke we all have.4
A few years earlier the American Bahá'í Alaine Locke had visited Haifa. His descriptions of the domestic arrangements of the Holy Household are similar to Effie's, and are assist us in picturing the happiness that the pilgrims experienced, and the extent to which they were affected by even the way in which meals were planned and served:
The household is an industrious beehive of the great work: splendid division of labor but with all-pervading unity of heart. Never have I seen the necessary subordinations of organised service so full of a sense of dignity and essential quality as here. I thought that in the spirit of such devoted co-operation and cheerful self-subordination there was the potential solution of those great problems of class and caste which today so affect society.5
To Effie, the women of the Holy Family were simple, charming and sweet, and she felt that their hearts overflowed with love for the pilgrims. Foremost among them was Bahíyyih Khánum, daughter of Bahá'u'lláh known as the "Greatest Holy Leaf", the woman who had commanded the reigns of the Bahá'í World while Shoghi Effendi retreated from Haifa in 1922 to prepare himself for his staggering mission. Munírih Khánum (known has the "Holy Mother"), the wife of `Abdu'l-Bahá, lived close to the centre of pilgrimage, as did the families of her four daughters (Díyá'íyyih, Túbá, Rúhá, and Munavvar).
Díyáíyyih, the eldest daughter, and mother of Shoghi Effendi, was married to Mirza Hadi Shirazi. She was mother also to Husayn, Riaz, Ruhangiz, and Mehrangiz. Túbá Khánum and her husband Mírzá Mohsen had four children: Soheil, Ruhi, Soraya and Fuad Afnan.6 Munírih Khánum lived with this daughter. Túbá's son Sohail studied at the American University of Beirut, and in September 1926 travelled to Oxford hoping to gain admission to study there. A third daughter Rúhá Khánum (twin sister of Túbá) and her husband Mirza Jalal, had five children: Munib, Hasan, Maryam, Duha, and Zahra.7 The families of Rúhá and Túbá lived in other buildings in the same grounds. Bahíyyih Khánum, together with Shoghi Effendi's parents Díyáí'yyih Khánum and Mirza Hadi, and the youngest of their five children, lived with other relations and friends in `Abdu'l-Bahá's House. The youngest daughter Munavvar Khanum and her husband Ahmad Yazdi, whom Effie had met in Egypt, had no children. Shoghi Effendi's sister MŽhrangiz was away studying in Paris. Thus it was that Efflie learnt that Shoghi Effendi had two brothers and two sisters, and as many as nine cousins.
Munavvar Khánum and Bahíyyih Khánum spokoe only Persian, apart from a few English phrases such as as "I love you". Rúhá Khánum, however, who lived next door to the pilgrim house, conversed at length in English with the Western pilgrims. She showed Effie the room where `Abdu'l-Bahá had died. Effie noted particularly the way in which his hat (fez) was placed on a bed. That evening she dreamt that she entered ’Abdu'l-Bahá's resting place, and that he came to life and blessed her.
The pilgrims learnt how `Abdu'l-Bahá had cultivated cereals at a village near the river Jordan; how the wife of Bahá'u'lláh had sold portions of her embroidered wedding dress in order to buy food during the exiles' trek to Baghdad; how Bahá'u'lláh's son Mirza Mihdi (the "Purest Branch") had fallen to his death while chanting from a rooftop; how Shoghi Effendi had been shocked to learn of the death of his beloved grandfather `Abdu'l-Bahá. On Thursday, March 19, Effie recorded in her diary stories gleaned from Rúhá Khánum:
Rúhá Khánum visited us just after breakfast and gave us a beautiful talk on the life of the Master. Martha wrote notes. Rúhá spoke of `Abdu'l-Bahá visiting Bahá'u'lláh every Friday at the Palace of Bahjí - how he walked on foot, a beautiful story of father and son, how `Abdu'l-Bahá secured instructions from his father and would return to carry these out during the week. They had a room across the street from where Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned for seven years, called the Master's drawing room. He would receive Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís and advise and help them. Then at 12 o'clock he would return and have lunch with Bahá'u'lláh and tell him all that had transpired. He would then go to the barracks in the afternoon and work in a little place for soldiers to stand in. He had no room where he could go to write privately. Rúhá described landing at Akka, and how people came to the sea-shore to see them - they had a terrible time on the boat and then in the prison.
Of the women of the Holy Household in Haifa Effie wrote:
To see with what sweetness and patient submission they have borne all the trials and persecution heaped upon them and not one trace of embitterment towards those who were the cause of their sufferings is hard to comprehend. The only recompense to them is our faithfulness to the Cause so dear to their pure hearts. Let us make fresh efforts to "bring the unity and concord and be the cause of comfort and promotion of humanity".
The pilgrims would have known something of those who broke Bahá'u'lláh's "Covenant" before their journey to the Holy Land. There were some among Bahá'u'lláh's family who had not obeyed the instruction in his Will and Testament to turn to 'Abdu'l-Bahá after his passing. Similarly, there were those who had refused, at the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, to acknowledge the Guardianship of Shoghi Effendi. The activities of such Covenant-breakers caused Shoghi Effendi untold agony, since they sought to destroy the unity of the emerging Bahá'í community through encouraging the disaffected, and attempting to seize possession of sacred Bahá'í properties. Tragically, each member of Shoghi Effendi's family, including all of his aunts, joined the ranks of the Covenant-breakers in later years. This was a sad betrayal of their heritage, and of the potential they clearly showed to pilgrims in earlier days.
There were other Bahá'ís living in Palestine in the mid-1920s in addition to the members of the Holy Family. Some of these were in Haifa, including Mirza Zain, Anayatu'lláh Isfahani (a shop keeper), Azizullah S. Bahadur, Badi Bushrui and his family, and several Persian families who had intermarried with members of the Holy family, such as the sister and two sons of Zia Bagdadi's wife, Madam Yazdi, who was a cousin of the Holy Family. There was also Fujita, who as already mentioned had arrived in 1919. Martha Root, aware that Fujita was a keen gardener, brought him seeds from South Africa. She had evidently told her friends this, as Effie arrived with seeds from Australia and Ethel Blundell and Margaret Stevenson with seeds from New Zealand.
There were also a number of Western Bahá'ís temporarily in Haifa, including Corrine True, Mountford Mills, an American Bahá'í - whom Effie described as a "man of charming character and full of fun". Mr Mills was a lawyer who had arrived on 14 March from a "special mission" carried out for Shoghi Effendi in Baghdad. The pilgrims did not have time to find out more about this mission, but it most likely related to Shoghi Effendi's struggle to reclaim title to the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, which had wrongfully been granted to Muslims in 1920).
John Esslemont, a medical doctor from Scotland, best known as author of the introductory text Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, was also in Haifa, but in hospital at the time the pilgrims arrived. Effie described his ailment as asthma but Esslemont's disease was tuberculosis, and it claimed his saintly life later that same year.
Miss Horn arrived from Germany for her pilgramge a few weeks Effie and her group. Also in Haifa in March 1925 were pilgrims from Baghdad, described by Margaret Stevenson as "fine looking, big men, beautifully dressed and with such bright happy faces",8 as well as pilgrims from Persia and India, with whom Effie and the New Zealand Bahá'ís could exchange smiles, but little else [consequently, they could not record for us their names].
The pilgrims were well aware that the ground on which they trod had been traversed in times past by the holy souls of Christendom, and this realisation was reinforced as they saw more of Israel. On the fifth day they departed at 8.15am by train to Akká, observing ancient landmarks en route, including the Keshon River where Elijah slew the 400 priests of Baal. Arab huts and tents, sand hills, camels and sheep, were now becoming familiar sights. Once in Akká the pilgrims were transported in the nine-seat "wagonette" in which `Abdu'l-Bahá travelled in April 1920 to receive his knighthood. They first visited the House where Bahá'u'lláh remained for seven years, and observed the room in which the Kitab-i-Aqdas ("The Most Holy Book", Bahá'u'lláh's "Book of Laws") was revealed, and the bath which `Abdu'l-Bahá had built for his father. Then, they visited the "Most Great Prison", a barracks which was being converted into a hospital for tuberculosis prisoners. Lastly, they visited the house in which `Abdu'l-Bahá had lived until 1908 (which in 1925 was also being used as a hospital).
The pilgrims next visited the mansion at Bahjí, half an hour's walk beyond the city walls. They were joined here by Shoghi Effendi's secretaries Soheil and Azízu'lláh, as well as by Mountford Mills. After visiting the Holy Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahjí they drank tea. The gardens were attractive but not yet in the full bloom of spring - although there were sufficient flowers in a small garden next to the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh for Effie and Margaret to pick for drying. That evening the pilgrims slept in the room in the "pilgrim house" at Bahjí where `Abdu'l-Bahá had revealed some passages of the "Divine Plan". Muhammad Ali, `Abdu'l-Bahá's half-brother continued to live in the "palace", as the mansion at Bahjí was then called. The following day, at 4pm, the travellers caught the return train to Haifa, travelling, as Fujita expressed it, "3rd class deluxe".9
The following morning, after the pilgrims offered prayers at the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, they visited the Garden of Ridván, some two miles distant. There they had lunch under two huge mulberry trees which had at one time shaded Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá. Soheil Afnan related the story of `Abdu'l-Bahá's knighthood, how he had several times refused the British Government's request to so honour him:
he had a beautiful carriage someone presented him with, but he didn't wish any fuss so he drove in this wagonette to the governors residence didn't go by the main entrance, just entered a little gate at the back. Everyone was waiting for `Abdu'l-Bahá to drive up in great pomp and ceremony. The walk to the governors house was lined with soldiers ready to make the guard of honour, when to everyone's surprise `Abdu'l-Bahá quietly came in at the back and took the seat allotted for him. He graciously received the papers of knighthood then when the ceremony was over just went out the way he came and drove off in the old carriage.10
At different times during the pilgrimage Effie, Margaret, and the other pilgrims talked with Husain Ruhi, who was a school inspector; or with Azíz Bahadur, another of the Haifa Bahá'ís. Effie made notes while these men spoke, which she later pasted into booklets.11 She had many important details to learn, many aspects of the Bahá'í teachings to review, and even new words whose meanings had to be found. "Bahá'u'lláh died in 1892", one sheath of paper commences, "`Abdu'l-Bahá born in Tehran May 23 1844; Bahá'u'lláh imprisoned Akká August 31st, 1868; Sultan Hamid tyrannous regime ended August 31st 1908; quintessence - concentrated extract; assurance - confidence, security; transitory - continuing but a short time; effulgence - flood of light luminous..", ... and the list continued. Effie's notes indicate a fascination with accounts of the Persian Bábís, and include valuable oral testimony which is not all recorded in print. One concerns Husain Ruhi's efforts to identify the resting place of his martyred father, Mulla Muhammad-i-Tabrizi, in a remote corner of Iraq.12
There were quiet times during Effie's time in Haifa. The pilgrims sometimes sat beneath an olive tree, supposed to have been planted by the Romans some three thousand years previously, under which `Abdu'l-Bahá frequently sat. They were shown the clump of cyprus trees which marked the spot where Bahá'u'lláh had pitched his tent on Mt Carmel. Shoghi Effendi was in the process of creating terraces on Mt Carmel, and four young men had volunteered to excavate and move the soil, a feat made difficult by the rocky terrain. He was endeavouring to keep the Shrines on Mt Carmel as simple as possible, Effie reported in her letters to the Dunns, and all who visited there professed that he had made wonderful progress with the gardens:
If you could only see the rocky nature of Mt Carmel you would see what a stupendous work has been undertaken.
Effie walked with Corrine True down Carmel Avenue in the evenings, and look up to see the Holy Tomb lit by a powerful electric light. Mrs True told Effie that when the searchlight, which was supplied to the Guardian by the American Bahá'í Curtis Kelsey, was first set onto the Holy Tomb, a ship's captain mistook it for a lighthouse he knew existed at the extreme end of Mt Carmel, and anchored his ship at sea for the night until the morning light could solve his confusion!
On the afternoon of Sunday 15th March the pilgrims attended a wedding of two Persian Bahá'ís, at which they were invited to speak of the Bahá'í communities in their respective countries. The male guests gathered at the Mens' Pilgrim House, near to the Shrine of the Báb, and the women gathered at the house of Abbás-Qulí, keeper of the Tomb. Effie found the eastern custom by which men and women did not mix socially intriguing. Margaret wrote of the event to her sisters:
I must tell you that there was to be a Bahá'í wedding this aft., and having met the bridegroom the day before, he invited us to the wedding and we were delighted to accept. A custom here, amongst the Persians, is that the bride and bridegroom do not meet before the marriage. To us this is terrible, but they say it generally turns out all right. However, the Bahá'ís are not so particular and sometimes see each other a good deal. In this particular case, the man lived in Alexandria and had not seen the girl since she was a child and unveiled. He came here and the girl's mother invited him to dinner the day before the marriage and introduced them.13
On 21 March the Feast of "Naw Ruz", the Bahá'í new year, was celebrated. Munírih Khánum gave each of the pilgrims a beautiful silk handkerchief as well as ring-stones which had been blessed by `Abdu'l-Bahá. The Western ladies were given the seats of honour at the Naw Ruz Feast of the Eastern men, while the Eastern women celebrated separately (the equality of men and women is a central principal of the Bahá'í Faith, but is one that can only be implemented at a speed which is comfortable to all concerned. In this case, "eastern" women were allowed the segregated status they were familiar with in Iran at the time. In later years such cultural practices were discontinued - although see the anecdote in a later chapter concerning the continued use of the chuddor by Bahá'í women from Iran).
News of this Naw Ruz experienced by the Australian and New Zealand pilgrims in Haifa in 1925 was reported to Bahá'í communities around the world in the Newsletter of Haifa Local Assembly:
Today as we were celebrating the Naw-Ruz Feast on Mount Carmel by the side of the Holy Shrine of the Báb and `Abdu'l-Bahá our joy was intensified by the receipt of a cablegram from the Bahá'í friends in Auckland, New Zealand, extending to us love and greetings. The Bahá'í principles are backed by the dominating power of His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá sooner or later they are sure to penetrate into every heart and unto us it is given to try and reach those centres which are not likely to hear about the Cause because of their geographical situation. This celebration was unique in that we had the pleasure of having with us representatives from practically all parts of the world: the first party of friends to visit the Holy Land from Australasia: Mrs Blundell, and daughter and son, Miss and Mrs Blundell, Miss Stevenson, all from Auckland, New Zealand, and Miss Baker from Melbourne, Australia; Mrs Corrine True and Miss Martha Root from America. There are also pilgrims from India and Persia who have just arrived...14
The following day, a Sunday, the pilgrims were shown pictures of `Abdu'l-Bahá's funeral at the home of Mirza Anayatullah Isfahani. They also heard a recording of `Abdu'l-Bahá at the home Mirza Husain Ruhi, and listened to details Shoghi Effendi's recent travels in Switzerland. The pilgrims also viewed the room in which `Abdu'l-Bahá passed away. Late in the afternoon the Greatest Holy Leaf gave Effie a Bahá'í ring.
On 23rd March the pilgrims left Haifa in a car hired from Suleiman Tannous, a Bahá'í friend of Azíz Bahadur's, who ran Tannous Brothers Pharmacy in Jerusalem. In four days they explored Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablus, and Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee, benefitting greatly from their driver's knowledgeable commentary. Relics from the first world war were strewn along the way. The "primitive lifestyle" of the Arab villagers who lived in mud huts or tents was a source of fascination. Another Bahá'í, Yannirs, acted as guide in Jerusalem, where the pilgrims visited the Holy Sepulchure, the Tomb of Jesus and the stone that was rolled away from the tomb, the tomb of Joseph of Aramathea and Macedonia hewn out of rock, and the tomb of Longinous, the soldier who pierced Jesus' side. They were also shown sites where many met Jesus and thought that he was a gardener; where he was kept a prisoner; where soldiers cast lots for garments, where St. Helena found crosses and nails, crown of thorns and pillar upon which Jews sat while Jews mocked him. They also visited calvary, where Jesus was crucified, the old Wall of Solomon, and even a painting by Murillo.
The following day the pilgrims visited the Mosque of Oman, Rachael's tomb in Bethlehem, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, the Dead Sea, and Jericho. On the third day it was impossible to leave the hotel, as riots were expected to accompany the arrival of Lord Balfour, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (This was the period in which Zionists were agitating for the establishment of the state of Israel). The pilgrims returned to Haifa by way of Nablus, Tiberius, Bethsaida and Nazareth, passing camel-trains, and Arab herdsmen driving variously cattle, sheep and goats along white and winding roads.
Interviews with Shoghi Effendi
The pilgrims had all been curious to meet Shoghi Effendi, having heard how he had been shocked to learn, as a young man aged just 24, that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had named him as his successor, and as "Guardian" of the Bahá'í Faith. He was not well when the pilgrims were in Haifa in March 1925, and they saw little of him. Nevertheless, Shoghi Effendi granted them six interviews in all. In one interview the Guardian impressed on Effie and Margaret Stevenson the need to study the teachings well, and convey them "in their purity" when talking to others. It was important to seek out all references by Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá concerning a matter, so that the imagination did not "run riot" when the teachings were being explained.15 Shoghi Effendi also stressed the importance of making firm believers, rather than merely interesting a wide range of people in the Cause. He stressed to Effie and the other pilgrims the need for unity within the Bahá'í community. Effie recorded:
He again emphasised the fact of speaking on the principles whenever opportunity arises and then give short outline of the history. In speaking of the Cause our great object and mission is to create harmony and unity. If differences arise we must consult with one another and when decision of a just settlement is arrived at go to the ones with whom it has arisen, and tell them in great kindness and love, advise them of your decision. Do not force or insist but leave it to them to meditate on, and then pray earnestly that they may see things in the right light.16
Margaret Stevenson asked some questions about Bahá'í administration on behalf of Hyde Dunn. Returning from the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh the Guardian said that the establishment of Local Assemblies was not enough: he wished them to "function and act vigorously". To this Effie added "The quick spread of the cause is not essential but most essential is change of heart and life of those who accept the teachings. An intellectual grasp of the teachings is not enough. We must endeavour to become selfless and devoted and exemplify the teachings in our lives, radiating the spirit of love and giving of humble and sincere service."17
Shoghi Effendi had advised Effie during their third interview not to travel to North America, but to visit the London Bahá'ís, then to "return as soon as possible and help Father and Mother Dunn with the work in Australia."18 When asked about the relationship between the Bahá'í communities of Australia and New Zealand the Guardian replied that at first they would constitute one National Spiritual Assembly, and that later, as numbers of Local Assemblies increased, they would be separate. This process came to pass many years later, with the formation of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Australia and New Zealand in 1934, and the formation of a separate national body for New Zealand in 1957.
Shoghi Effendi also clarified such matters as the composition of the Local Assembly, the election of the National Assembly, the meaning of several tablets, and the method of observing obligatory prayers. He praised the contribution Jews were making to the material development of Palestine, and referred to the future time, as foretold by `Abdu'l-Bahá, when they would enter the Faith.
After two weeks of exhilarating days and nights in Haifa, the pilgrims made plans for their departure. Although tired, Effie strove to write her impressions of all that had transpired, so that she could share her experiences with the Dunns, and with the other Australian Bahá'ís. She had found it "heavenly" to be among people who demonstrated such self-sacrifice. On 31 March Shoghi Effendi arranged for Effie and her companions to view photos of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, a privilege reserved for pilgrims, and for other very special occasions. She recorded her response to seeing the Holy countenances of Bahá'u'lláh and then the Báb:
A wonderfully powerful face. To me the eyes were half-closed but they seemed to search one's heart and involuntarily the words came to one's lips "Oh! God forgive me!". The others are a series of three small paintings of him done by an artist (Persian) from memory depicting him in his youth, which did not appeal to me so much. The third, a painting of the Báb, is small, and depicts him in a praying attitude. It is a beautiful, quiet, spiritual face. The art is Eastern in its conception and contrasting to Western ideas.19
Throughout her pilgrimage, Shoghi Effendi later reported to the Dunns, Effie had spoken eloquently of their "diligent and heroic pioneer work in that vast continent".20 While Effie and Margaret were admiring his "large and spacious" library on the eve of their departure, he in turn praised the efforts of Clara and Hyde Dunn and the infant Bahá'í community in Australia and New Zealand. Then, after throwing open a window which faced the Holy Tomb, and chanting a prayer in English, Shoghi Effendi bade the two women farewell.21
The following morning Effie said goodbye to the Bahiyyih Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf, and to the other women in the household. It was April the first. Rúhá held Effie in her arms and said "Effie, you are mine, this is your home...you must write to me and tell me all your trials and difficulties, you can always return here". While bidding goodbye, the women asked Effie to visit them after her stay in London. They knew that Shoghi Effendi would be away, but they wished her to come. Margaret recorded:
As we were going out of the garden Effie and I saw the Holy Mother sitting on her verandah and went up to her for a minute - she, the dear, was quite overcome. We all drove down to the station in the carriage (our luggage had gone on before) and Martha and about eleven Bahá'ís came to see us off, they are all such dears.22
Margaret conveyed to friends that they were very sorry to be leaving Haifa having had such a wonderful time:
I just pray that I may be better fitted to help on the Cause, because of my sojourn there. I cannot be too thankful and grateful for God's bounty in making it possible for me to go, especially during the lifetime of the Holy Mother and the Greatest Holy Leaf for they both are very frail. I have much I would like to tell you in connection with this visit, but perhaps when I return may have an opportunity.23
The pilgrims and Azízu'lláh Khan, who was on his way to Germany for an operation on his hand, departed for Kantara. Fujita and Muhammad Mustapha accompanied them as far as Port Said. The travellers viewed the scenery which had been clothed in darkness during their inward journey. They passed fields of wild flowers, some golden, others red; as well as quantities of date palms and orange groves. After passing once more by ferry from Kantara East to West, and by rail to Port Said, the Hotel de la Porte was reached at 10.30pm. Effie slept soundly. The following evening the travellers, together with Fujita and another Bahá'í named Azíz, attended a meeting of the Port Said Bahá'ís. Rough seas had prevented their boat, the Esperance Bay, from reaching the port.
A call at 1.30am to rise and prepare to board the boat proved to be a false alarm, and the boat did not depart until noon on 3 April - by which time all were extremely tired. The first day out to sea was rough enough to make most passengers, including Effie, quite seasick. On subsequent days, however, the sea was calm, but the passage across the Mediterranean was cold, and snow was visible on the mountains of both the African and European coasts. In her usual organised manner, Effie took the opportunity on board to write her account of her pilgrimage, as well as write letters to friends and family, before reaching England.
News of the pilgrimage soon reached Australia. Dr John Esslemont, who was acting as Shoghi Effendi's secretary, wrote to the Dunns on 9 April:
We had a delightful visit, lasting three weeks, from the three Blundells, Margaret Stevenson and Effie Baker, whom the Holy Family and the friends here came to love very much. They are very sincere and selfless souls. We hope you have many more such in the various groups you have founded. Few things have contributed more to Shoghi Effendi's happiness during the last year or two than the progress of the Cause in Australasia, thanks to your tireless and selfless efforts. We all hope that what has been accomplished up till now may be but a foretaste of much greater progress in the future when those you have been training and teaching become themselves active workers.
The Australia and New Zealand Bahá'ís, in the first issue of their magazine, Herald of the South, admitted they were eagerly awaiting the returning pilgrims, and hoped that a "permanent record in book form" would be made to mark the first Australasian pilgrimage. Although this, alas, was never done, Ernest Brewer, then corresponding secretary of Sydney Assembly, copied excerpts from Effie's letters for distribution to the other Australian Assemblies.24 Her notes about her pilgrimage were never published, but provided her with a source from which she drew faithfully in subsequent years. By April 1925 Effie may have recognised the desire stirring in her own soul to remain in Haifa. The bond which she had rapidly formed with the women of the Holy household must have been evident to all. Perhaps Shoghi Effendi recognised this also, for while she was still in London Effie received his invitation to revisit Haifa before returning to Australia.25
"Record of My Visit to Haifa, March 1925"
By Effie E. Baker
Arrived at Haifa, Palestine 13 March 1925.
Shoghi Effendi sent greetings to us and asked us to come to the Master's House and see him before lunch.
First interview with the Beloved Guardian
To me it was a wonderful interview and meeting. His step is quick and decisive also his manner of speech, but the sweetness of his countenance, and the bright alert expression of his eyes conveys to you a wonderful tenderness of heart which radiates to you such graciousness, and simplicity, you feel at once at your ease, as if a weight has been removed from your heart and a great peace reigns. You feel such a happiness in his presence it is hard to describe.
Shoghi Effendi first of all gave us all a hearty welcome to the Holy Land, and hoped by making the pilgrimage we would receive much benefit spiritually. He assured us of his earnest prayers for us and out continent and enquired about the friends in Australia and New Zealand, and about the progress of the movement. He was very delighted by reports recently received from Father Dunn, and thinks Australia has a great future.
He said "the essential point is to speak of, and teach the principles, but first and most of all, live them. After giving the principles, give the history of the Cause". I said we would like him to come to Australia and his answer was "I certainly hope I will".
Monday 16 March 1925 - second interview with our Beloved Guardian
Shoghi Effendi again emphasised the importance of speaking on the principles whenever opportunity arises, and then giving a short outline of the history of the Cause.
Our great object and mission is to create harmony and unity. If differences arise we must consult with one another; and when a decision, if a just settlement, is arrived at go to the ones with whom difference has arisen and tell them in great kindness and love of our decision. Leave it to them to meditate on. Do not force or insist but just pray that they may see things in the right light.
With regard to literature, it must be distributed in a dignified way, and not be made cheap.It should not be given out at doors, or left on park benches, etc. In meetings, have a specified place for literature in the room and announce that if anyone is interested in the Cause, they may obtain the literature.
Our object, where-ever we are, is to make a firm believer, instead of just interesting a lot of people, which is not sufficient. We must concentrate our efforts to make a firm believer, who will be capable of carrying on the work when we are not there.
We must strive to study the teachings to impart the truth fluently and with conviction, not superficially. We must devote as much of our time as possible so that we may grasp the inner meanings of the teachings and be able to satisfy, without hesitation, or referring to books, questions asked us.
Questions asked by Margaret for Mr Hyde Dunn
Question one: What is the birth-date of Shoghi Effendi? He was born in 1897 but does not give the date as he does not wish it to be observed in any way.
Question two: Are New Zealand and the South Sea Islands to be included in the National Assembly of Australasia? For the present, yes! Later, when numbers increase and there are sufficient Local Spiritual Assemblies, there will be separate National Assemblies for Australia and New Zealand. There is no immediate hurry to form the National Assembly. Just go on quietly.
Question three: Certain cities have firm and steadfast Bahá'ís, but not enough for an Assembly: are these firm ones eligible for electors from whom the National House could be elected? As a rule, no - except in countries where the Bahá'í Centres are still few in number. In answering this question Shoghi Effendi says Bahá'í, in the wider sense of the name, only means one who is interested in principles. We must first of all have true believers. A true believer is one who not only believes in the principles, but believes in the Manifestation as well. We must wait till we have these firm believers before we can elect the Local Assembly. They must be ten in number at least, but nothing less than ten, so that nine can be elected to form the Local Spiritual Assembly. Get the Local Assemblies established first of all. To establish the National Assembly is not as urgent as first getting the Local Assemblies firmly established.
Question four: the official Assembly includes nine people: are all the people attending the meetings to be known as members of the Assembly? The term "Assembly" should apply only to the body of nine, elected by the friends. First of all we must have more than nine declared believers before we can elect our Local Spiritual Assembly. Those who are not declared believers have no vote. The Will of ’Abdu'l-Bahá gives concise and explicit instructions regarding the election of the Local Spiritual Assemblies and must be studied carefully, followed carefully, and not deviated from.
Question five: are committees for practical work to be chosen from the Assembly and its members? Members need not be just the Assembly, and may be chosen from amongst the members or Bahá'ís.
Questsion six: regarding the Surat-el-Hykl: we have understood it to be Bahá'u'lláh revealing the station of ’Abdu'l-Bahá: is this correct? Is there a commentary in connection with it to be had? No. This passage reveals the temple or body of the Cause.
Question seven: does the Tablet of the Houri apply to ’Abdu'l-Bahá? Yes!
Margaret asked this question regarding prayers: is it necessary to wash hands, bend and place hands on knees, hold hands before face, etc? (as some people object). Bahá'u'lláh has revealed three obligatory prayers. First is the normal daily prayer; second is the short prayer which does not necessitate bending or kneeling; the third is very long, kneeling with forehead to ground, etc. - this is only for those who wish. One must choose one of the three as daily obligatory prayers. Bahá'u'lláh has revealed these three so that one can have perfect freedom to choose one of them, but we are commanded to use one of these daily. If one objects to bending, etc, we have our freedom to choose the short prayer which does not necessitate it.
Third interview with Shoghi Effendi our Beloved Guardian, Friday 20 March 1925
Shoghi Effendi sent for Margaret and myself and he spoke to me regarding the work in Australia. He says for me to proceed to London and visit friends there, but does not wish me to proceed to America, as it is not necessary. He wishes me to return to Australia and continue to work with Mr and Mrs Hyde Dunn and spread the teachings in Australia.
Speaking of getting in touch with the source, he said: first, we must have purity of intention; second, we must have detachment; and third, we must have concentration.
Fourth interview with our Beloved Guardian 29 March 1925
Shoghi Effendi sent for Margaret and myself. He referred to the return of the Jews to Palestine, and said they would first make a great contribution to the material civilization of Palestine and then eventually will (as the Master foretold) come into the Bahá'í Faith. There are 14 million Jews in the world and it appears they are concentrating upon Palestine and their advanced ideas and wealth will help Palestine considerably.
Soheil then came to ask us to come and have our photos taken with the Arab pilgrims from Baghdad.26 Shoghi Effendi declined. He does not wish his photo taken since he has become Guardian of the Cause, as he does not wish anya attachment to his personality.
Fifth interview with Shoghi Effendi 31 March 1925
Shoghi Effendi sent for all of us and told us he had asked the ladies of the household to prepare the pictures of Bahá'u'lláh and the Bab for us to see. The picture of Bahá'u'lláh is a photo (in sitting posture at a table). A wonderofully powerful face. To me the eyes were half-closed b ut they seemed to search one's heart and involuntarily the words came to one's lips, Oh! God forgive me! The others are a series of three small paintings of him done by an artist (Persian) from memory depicting him in his youth, which did not appeal to me so much. The third, a painting of the Bab, is small, and depicts him in a praying attitude. It is a beautiful, quiet, spiritual face. The art is eastern in its conception and contrasting to western ideas.
The others were beautiful photos of the Master and one could there fully realise His majestical beauty, simplicity, and kindness of heart, showered to all creatures irrespective of race, colour, or creed. One who meekly withstood the onslought of the enemy bearing no trace of malice, showing naught but loving service to all mankind, from day to day, though many trials, tribulations and indignities were heaped upon him.
Sixth interview with our Beloved Guardian 31 March 1925
Shoghi Effendi sent for Margaret and myself to say good-bye and wish us bon-voyage. He wished us to see his apartment. His library is large and spacious, and has one of its windows facing the Holy Shrines. He opened it so that we could see the light shining above the Holy Tomb. He can always turn there to pray. The walls are surrounded with bookcases containing literature touching on all vital questions of the day (I presume).
He again mentioned how glad his heart is at the good reports from Australia and hopes great things from there. How glad he was I had come as the first pilgrim and assured me of his earnest prayers, that he wished me to return and continue the good work with Father and Mother Dunn and that he felt all that we do together would be confirmed. He prayed a prayer for us in English (starting: "In the name of God! The Supreme! The High! page 78 of Hidden Words), and said it was a favourte one of his. Shoghi Effendi asks that we give publicity to martyrdoms occuring in Persia as much as possible. In doing so we must use tact and wisdom. We are not to ask the Government to take steps - as Bahá'ís we do not interfere politically but just try and let people know what suffering is caused by the fanatical minds ignorant and prejudiced. How the faithful follwers of Bahá'u'lláh suffer for the Faith he has proclaimed, which only has for its' object the betterment of humanity. It does behove each one of us to make fresh efforts to promulgate His noble teachings and strive to instill into our hearts His command "O Son of Spirit. Justice is the best beloved in my sight, turn not away therefrom if thou desirest me, etc.."
We cannot realise this oppression in our land of freedom of thought and opinion. Pray earnestly that the time is not far distant that our dear brothers and sisters in Persia may have freedom of spiritual thought and ideas. That the government will cause the enforcement of educational facilities which will be a means of material advancement and enlightenment that will bring in its train spiritual enlightenment also.
In England Effie established bonds of close companionship with newly-met Bahá'í sisters, just as she had done in the period after becoming a Bahá'í in Australia three years previously. These three years had passed swiftly, and the pilgrimage in Haifa had also come and gone in as if in a passing moment. While travelling Effie had nurtured her bonds with Clara and Hyde Dunn, with Ruby Beaver and Greta Lamprill, with Maysie Almond and with the members of her family, through long, descriptive, letters. Her capacity for creating friendships, it seems, was considerable. In Haifa she had become close to the women of the holy household and to her travelling companion Margaret Stevenson, and she had made many other acquaintances besides. Her travels with Martha Root continued to provide treasured memories and spiritual sustenance. Now, in England, she met many more Bahá'ís, with whom she passed supremely happy days, and some of whom became her life-long friends.
After docking at Southampton in the evening of Sunday, April 12th, Effie, Margaret Stevenson and the Blundells, travelled by train to London, arriving there at noon the following day. Sarah Blundell and her children planned to stay in Great Britain for twelve months, and soon purchased a car in which to travel north to Scotland. Margaret Stevenson also went north for a time. She stayed with Grace Challis in September, before sailing for New Zealand on 3rd November. "The New Zealand pilgrims have but one idea", Claudia Coles commented when sending a photo taken by Effie to Star of the West,
" - to awake people to the privilege of knowing the Manifestation in the day of Realisation. Gracious! I enjoy the spirit they radiate. We worship in truth. Dear Mrs Blundell from New Zealand read the Tablet of Wisdom from Bahá'í Scriptures on Sunday with such clearness and power. She is silver-haired, a seeker all her life, a pioneer in many forward movements in New Zealand, but now she says, 'there is no more search'. When the word of the Manifestation is available, people's opinions vanish like mist before the rising sun'. Her children, both grown, have opened out in realization since coming to England and finding their relatives unaware of the bounty they have found. Such workers! Ethel Blundell said: "I have gone deep into all the new movements as they have come to New Zealand, but Mr Dunn brought the light of the Manifestation of God through the Centre of His Covenant. That was what arrested my attention. I knew it was in the world, but I knew he had the truth..."1
Effie stayed in England for three months. At first she considered London a "bewildering place", but was soon captivated by its numerous historic buildings and spent many days absorbing the sights of a city steeped in centuries of tradition. She found them to be unlike the state capitals she had seen in Australia. On a visit to the British Museum Effie did not manage to view Bahá'u'lláh's tablet to Queen Victoria as she had hoped, but did obtain permission to see Bahá'í manuscripts in the Museum's Oriental Room. On other days she traversed London, usually in the company of Claudia Coles - visiting Buckingham Palace, St James Park, Whitehall, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Pall Mall, Regent St, London Zoo, Regents Park and Botanical Gardens, Windsor Castle (with Mrs Emerson, a Canadian Bahá'í, as well as with Claudia), and the National Gallery. In Piccadilly Circus she enjoyed the sight of daffodils, violets and roses being sold in the street.
With Claudia, regarded by Effie as one of "America's pioneer firm and staunch true believers" who gave the message of Baha'u'lláh at all opportunities,2 she saw a threatre production of the "Life of Christ" (the program for which she posted to Clara Dunn); the pageant "London Defended" at Wembley; a photoplay on the life of Dr Livingstone, and the Great Flower show at Chelsea, of which she wrote:
every huge tent we entered had the most exquisite blooms of flowers of every variety, shape, colour and hue. Our eyes just feasted on never ending rows of gorgeous and exquisite colours blending into one harmonious whole. Certainly nature ever demonstrates the law of harmony to us.3
In addition to this sight-seeing which Effie found so absorbing, she participated as a speaker at Bahá'í meetings more frequently than she could ever have imagined doing. A local publication, the Australian and New Zealander, noted "Miss Effie Baker of Melbourne is at present staying in London where she is meeting with members of the Bahá'í movement". One Wednesday in May she and Claudia Coles combined a visit to the National Gallery with attendance at a "delightful and inspiring" meeting in Lindsay Hall - a "restful spot" at Nottingcote Hill - at which she, Fred Schopflocher, and Lady Blomfield spoke.
This may have been the first, but was not the last time, at which Effie shared a speaking platform with distinguished company. Fred Schopflocher, of German Jewish descent, had settled in Canada and become a Bahá'í there. He was the owner of a successful manufacturing business in Montreal and his business interests now took him to all parts of the world. Elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada in 1924, Schopflocher was emerging as a prominent Bahá'í speaker and administrator. Later he and his wife, Lorel, made large financial contributions to assist in the completion of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár (House of Worship) in Wilmette, Illinois. He had first been to the Holy land to make his pilgrimage in 1922, and was to make many more visits in the future, and to render invaluable assistance to Shoghi Effendi, who subsequently appointed him a Hand of the Cause, and designated him "chief temple builder". Lady Blomfield was as prominent a member of the British community as Fred Schopflocher was of the North American. She had heard of the Faith from Miss Rosenberg in Paris in 1907, and had met 'Abdu'l-Bahá when he visited London in 1911. Following his passing she had accompanied the disconsolate Shoghi Effendi from England to Haifa. Anxious to assist in recording the history of the movement in its early days, she had co-authored "The Passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá" with Shoghi Effendi, and gathered notes from members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family during visits to Haifa in 1921-22. Effie may not have possessed as wide an experience of peoples and places as her colleagues, but she no doubt spoke truely and with vitality about her experience as an Australian Bahá'í encountering her sister communities in the East and in Great Britain for the first time.
Her hosts were evidently impressed, for she was subsequently invited to speak in the homes of Miss Elizabeth Herrick, Mrs George, Claudia Coles, and Lady Blomfield. Effie attended a number of interesting gatherings at Lady Sarah Blomfield's home at Hampstead Court. To be in her company while she read extracts from her diary about Abdu'l-Bahá's stay was for Effie and for Margaret Stevenson quite exhilarating. During various visits with Lady Blomfield Effie renewed her acquaintance with Freddie Schopflocher; met Lady Blomfield's daughter and son in law, Mary and Captain Basil Hall; and heard the Bishop of Kensington speak on the religious and ethical aspects of the League of Nations. Several years later, in 1930, Effie had the opportunity to return this hospitality, when Lady Blomfield once more visited Haifa to collect oral testimonies concerning early Bahá'í history for inclusion in her book The Chosen Highway. Lady Blomfield also visited Effie at Claudia Coles' home, as did Mrs Martell, an Australian involved in women's suffrage who had heard Abdu'l-Bahá speak in London.
The English Bahá'ís were few in number at this time, but their London meetings attracted a range of interesting people. At one gathering at University College Effie became an associate of the Save the Children Fund, having met Lady Blomfield's close friend and founder of the fund, Eglantyne Jebb. From Miss Herrick she ordered for each of the Australian Assemblies a copy of Miss Herrick's book Unity Triumphant. During one Monday evening meeting of young people at Claudia's she enjoyed hearing a young Swedish Baron read a paper. Each Sunday evening that she was in London, Effie and Claudia attended meetings at the home of Mrs George. Other meetings were held in the home of Mrs Rosenberg, one of the oldest London believers, who had met and served Abdu'l-Bahá when he had visited, and who was currently a member of the British National Assembly (Effie had met Mrs Rosenberg's cousin, Mr Jenner, when in Hobart with Martha Root in 1924).
On another occasion she met Mr G.P. Simpson, the secretary of the British National Assembly, together with his fellow Assembly members Mr Hall, Mrs Rosenberg, Sister Challis, Lady Blomfield, and Shoghi Effendi's cousin Ruhi Effendi. The "All England Bahá'í Council" had been established less than three years before, in June 1922, and an elected National Spiritual Assembly had first met in October 1923. At several events Effie met Mrs Slade, of Stokenchurch, and American Bahá'ís Mrs Ella Cooper and Mrs Lee, who were then visiting London.
Following several exciting weeks in London Effie travelled to West Moors, Dorest, to visit Sister Grace Challis at Ferndown Lodge, ten miles distant from Bournmouth, where she treated tuberculosis sufferers. Both Effie and Margaret Stevenson became good friends with Sister Challis. In Bournemouth in the first week of June Effie met London Bahá'ís Nancy Musgrove and Mr Coles, with whom she drove to see New Forest. She also attended a 19 day feast and a Bahá'í meeting on the lawn at which Mrs George spoke. Together with Grace, Effie spent some time gathering wild flowers before returning to London on June 8.
The opportunity then came for further travel out of London. After attending Mrs George's 14 June Sunday meeting, Effie left with the Blundells for Seagrave in their "four-seater" Fiat, passing on their way an ancient abbey at St Albans, and lunching in the manufacturing town of Luton. She saw the cities of Oxford and Bath with Mrs Blundell, then travelled by train to West Moors while the Blundells returned to Seagrave via Reading.
The remaining weeks of June continued to be filled with sightseeing, visiting new friends out of London, and attending Bahá'í meetings. She stayed with Mrs Slade at Stokenchurch, where again she met Mrs Cooper and Lee. In London she had Miss Isobel Frey to lunch. She also visited a cousin of Greta Lamprill whom she had the opportunity to explain the Bahá'í teachings to, and renewed her acquaintance with Mrs Elliot, a friend of Claudia's whom she had met when in Auckland with Martha Root. Also, she met Mrs Julia Culver, who was on her way to Geneva to work with Martha Root. She saw the photoplay "The city that never sleeps". This was indeed an exciting time, and Effie's reluctance to end it was only tempered by the knowledge that she was returning to another place in which she had experienced intense happiness, Haifa. Her friend Claudia Stuart Coles accompanied her as far as the train that took passengers to their boat.
Effie sailed down the Thames from Tilbury Docks on the SS Jervis Bay on the last day of June. She saw the white cliffs and castle turrets of Dover for a second time, and used the days of the return journey to Port Said to write her account of her time spent in England. The sea was rough and conditions were showery and cold in the bay of Biscay. It was exciting to see Portugal's Barbary Islands, the Straights of Gibraltar, the great rock of that name, the rugged peaks and occasional towns on the African coast, and the outlines on the historic island of Malta. Shoghi Effendi had invited her to revisit the Holy family for one or two weeks. She was in Port Said on 10 July, and received a transit permit to stay for five days with the Bahá'ís there. She booked her voyage to Australia aboard the "Hobson's Bay", and wrote to inform Clara Dunn that she would be in Melbourne about September 2nd. Clara did not believe this, writing to the Perth Bahá'ís from Sydney that she did not "feel" Effie's presence aboard that boat. She knew that Shoghi Effendi had asked Effie to revisit Haifa, and felt that he would not have done so if he had not been inspired by Abdu'l-Bahá. Clara wanted Effie to return soon, but was led by her intuition to believe that her "spiritual daughter" would stay away longer than others - perhaps including Effie herself - expected.
I wish to tell you a little about Haifa this afternoon.1 These incidents have been told me by Miss Baker who resided at the Western Pilgrim House for eleven years. To those who have embraced the Bahá'í Faith Haifa is the most important town in the world, for it is the pivot or centre of the activities for this great teaching which we instill into our hearts which will be the means of bringing the "Most Great Peace" to the world which is at the present moment in such turmoil and strife.
Haifa has become a very important commercial town. Before the great war it had a population of 15,000. When Miss Baker, together with Mrs Blundell, her daughter and son, and Miss Margaret Stevenson from New Zealand made the pilgrimage in 1925 the population had increased to 26,000. When Miss Baker left Haifa in 1936 there were over 75,000 inhabitants. Now the British Government has built the break-water which you can see in this photograph. It is the most important seaport for the middle east. It also has the great pipe-line which brings the crude oil for the Iraq Petroleum Company from Mosul in Iraq - a distance of 1,800 miles.
The head offices you can see in the picture marked number 5. You already know why it is so important to us because it is as I said before the centre of Bahá'í activities and it is there that our Beloved Guardian Shoghi Effendi resides and presides over all the places in connection with this great revelation for this new age which it has ushered in.
Its supreme importance is the fact that here on the slopes of Mt Carmel lie the bodies of His Holiness the Bab (who was the fore-runner or the one who proclaimed that the promised one Bahá'u'lláh would appear to give the great teachings to esetablish peace and brotherhood in the world), and His Holiness 'Abdu'l-Bahá. You can see the roof of the Holy Tomb where their sacred remains lie at the entrance left of the picture.
The panoramic picture was taken by Miss Baker from the slope of Mt Carmel so you cannot see the terraces that lead up from Carmel Avenue, the long straight street lined on both sides with Olive trees. You will see the roof of a house with a cross on top of it. This was erected by a Christian Arab who was very bitter against the Bahá'í Faith. His house was situated on the right hand side of one of the terraces leading to the Holy Tomb. He had electric lights on it and lighted them in the evening when the Holy Tomb is for one hour flood-lighted by two powerful flood-lights and turned into a structure of molten gold nestling amongst the beautiful trees and flowers which surround it.
It was significant though that the cross (symbol of the last dispensation) should be nestling beneath the shadow of the "great orb of light" which has ushered in this new dispensation. I will give you some idea as far as I can how you approach the Holy Tomb from the Home of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Shoghi Effendi and his father and mother and other members of the family live) and the Western Pilgrim House in the Persian colony.
No. 1 is the Pilgrim House, No. 2 is the Old Pilgrim House where Dr Esslemont passed away. No. 3 is the home of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the white rooms on the top are Shoghi Effendi's study and library where he does all his work, and his sleeping apartment. It is almost opposite the Pilgrim House. From here, we proceed along the Persian Colony (this is the name of the Street, not a real colony).
We turn to the left into a small street which has the English Hospital on the right hand side and the St. Lukes Church of England on the left, also the Women's Pilgrim House. Again you turn to the right into Mountain Road. Passing on from there on the right you pass the Iraq Petroleum Company office. On the left a little further on the High School for Girls. Continuing along Mountain Street we take a sharp bend and now follow the road walking towards the west.
Winding our way along here we first come to the Holy Tomb (surrounded by a beautiful garden) of the Greatest Holy Leaf, the revered and beloved daughter of Bahá'u'lláh and sister of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. A little further on we turn to the right and following a short road come to the Men's Persian Pilgrim House. Turing once more to the left you follow the line of Cyprus trees and then enter the garden which surrounds the Holy Tomb on the first terrace. Following the little path which brings you to the entrance of the Holy Tomb...
The night they were lighted a captain bringing his ship into the anchorage at Haifa for the first time looked on his chart to find only one light charted - that of the light house on the extreme west end of Mt. Carmel. Not having another light marked he was confused so anchored his ship out at sea for the night. Proceeding to anchorage in the early morning he at once reported the matter to the port authorities. They made enquiries and found that the light had been installed on the Holy Tomb by the electrician sent from America for that purpose and had been turned on for the first time that night.
The significant point is that the port authorities instead of ordering the light to be dismantled marked it on the navigation chart little realizing that for all time they had established the identity of the Great Light for this age.
Effie intended to stay in Haifa for two few weeks only, and she made arrangements to leave on the next steamer leaving Port Said, which was at the end of August. On her return to Haifa, however, she found Fujita, Mirza Jenab-i-Fadl, his wife and two children all suffering from influenza, and set about caring for them. Because Shoghi Effendi was absent, the women of the household urged her to stay at least until his return. They also made clear to Effie their desire that she stay as long as possible. Effie wrote in her diary on the 20th: "Dia Khanum wanted to know if I could stay. They wish me to accompany girls to England to resume their college studies". She later explained her change in plans to the Dunns:
I have been a little help to them here in the Pilgrim House and am doing most of the work since Fujita was sick. He is what you might say resting on his oars a bit. The Holy Family said I've been such a help to them and Díyáíyyih Khánum (Shoghi Effendi's mother) says that at last she has found a Mother for the Pilgrim Home. They asked me if I could really be happy and content to stay here always and would it be possible for me to stay. I told them I am content to serve the cause wherever I am needed, that personally I could stay but my desire is to serve the cause and obey Shoghi Effendi and that he had told me to return to Australia so they have asked me to wait till he returns and they ask him if they can keep me here.2
Effie knew that if she did stay in Haifa her life would be one of hardship and that there would be little rest or comfort. She wrote to the Dunns:
I can see that life here will not be easy and perhaps I have come here to learn the lesson of detachment. I am up at a little after five every morning and it is generally ten o'clock before I get to bed.3
There followed a period of some weeks, during which Effie stayed in Haifa unsure of her immediate plans. Much depended on Shoghi Effendi's advice. When he did return to Haifa, he suggested that it was best for her to return to Australia to assist the Dunns in spreading the Cause. This, afterall, had been her plan prior to leaving for Europe. Effie's letter to the Dunns indicated that the women of the Holy family were eager to have her stay, and suggested also that she was more than pleased to contemplate living for an extended period in Haifa. Shoghi Effendi's decision, therefore, that Effie should return to Australia, must have caused her some disappointment. Reconciling herself to the need to return home, she booked her return passage on the Esperance Bay, which was due to sail on 21 January 1926, and prepared to make the most of her final weeks in Haifa.
The Australian Bahá'ís were waiting expectantly for news of Effie's return. Clara Dunn knew from correspondence from Margaret Stevenson that the decision as to whether she would depart or continue on in Haifa depended on Shoghi Effendi, and that she had been waiting for his return to Haifa, and wrote in November to the Perth Bahá'ís that there was "just a chance" Effie had accompanied Margaret Stevenson on the Jervis Bay, soon due in Fremantle.4 The Blundells also were about to return to New Zealand. The Ulysses, on which they were travelling, was due in Adelaide in the middle of December. In late November, however, news came confirming Clara's intuition. Effie's letter reported to the Dunns that Shoghi Effendi had decided that it was no longer imperative that she return swiftly to Australia:
A couple of days before the date of my departure, Shoghi Effendi took me with him for the last visit to Bahá'u'lláh's Holy Shrine. On the drive back he said to me "You know Effie, a general always sends his good soldiers afar, he keeps the bad ones always under his eye". Next afternoon I was walking up the terrace (the only one at that time) to visit the Holy Shrine for the last time. Shoghi Effendi was starting to come down with some Persian pilgrims. He told them to continue and stopped to speak to me. He said "Effie I've reconsidered my decision. I'm going to keep you here". I said "Oh! Shoghi Effendi I am evidently one of the bad soldiers you told me about yesterday", and we had a hearty laugh together".5
Ernest Brewer's report appeared in both Herald of the South and Star of the West:
Many beautiful messages have been received by the Bahá'ís of Australia since Effie arrived at Haifa, each one more and more indicative of her spiritual advancement. Now comes the wonderful news that the Holy Family has asked her to stay with them indefinitely, and to become one of the family. Effie writes of this great dispensation enthusiastically, yet with humility. Her one desire is for "service". Whatever the Guardian desires her to do she is willing to perform. The honour of an Australian being chosen as one of the Holy Family is received by all local Bahá'ís with gratitude. Though they may have temporarily lost physical sight of the sweet-faced little toymaker her spirit will be with them all the time.6
Shoghi Effendi had no doubt been impressed by Effie's many endearing and praiseworthy qualities, and had judged, furthermore, that he had need in Haifa of her practical talents. He described her in a letter to the Dunns as a "beloved and devoted sister", an evidence of their "diligent and heroic pioneer work in that vast continent" whom he had been "so glad to welcome in Haifa".7 Effie haExtracts from Effie's diary provide insight into the events of October 1925 when the crucial decision whether to leave or stay was taken:
Thursday 15: Shoghi Effendi arrived today [the diary does not say where he had been, or for how long]. It was beautiful to see some of the friends greeting him at the gate. He is looking very well. Sohail Effendi and Ruhanguis came also but by boat direct to Haifa. Shoghi Effendi came by Train. He was very fresh after his long journey. He went to the Holy Tomb in afternoon and interviewed Julia [Culver] in the evening besides seeing numbers of the friends. It is nice to have him with us once more.
Friday 16: Shoghi Effendi came and had lunch with us. He was so pleased with the way Fujita and I had arranged the Pilgrim House and said he was happy to see me once again. He told me to let him know whenever I wished to talk with him and said on leaving he will send for me to come and talk with him later on.
On 23 December Effie wrote herself to explain the course of events:
You will have received word from Father and Mother Dunn that our Beloved Guardian has granted me the great privilege of remaining longer here. Speaking to him in reference to this decision he said that he had decided it was not imperative for me to return to Australia just yet, that I could serve in two capacities - render service here, and be of service to Australia by keeping in touch with you through correspondence. It will be ever my earnest desire to serve humbly and faithfully in these capacities.
There were three residences in Haifa for Bahá'í pilgrims at the time Effie arrived. The "old pilgrim house" and the Persian women's pilgrim house were located close to the House of `Abdu'l-Bahá, where Shoghi Effendi resided with his family members, while Persian men were accommodated higher up Mt Carmel, in close proximity to the Shrine of the Báb, in a building which was later to serve as a meeting place for pilgrims.
The new pilgrim house was ready for use in the first half of 1926, and Effie shared responsibility for making it habitable. Electric lights were installed near the end of September (had not the Haifa Local Spiritual Assembly named the new pilgrim house ‘Nurani’ (‘full of light’)?), greating easing Effie's workload and adding to everyone's comfort. Now light was always available, and she no longer had to constantly clean kerosene lamps. The Australian Bahá'ís provided £17 with which to purchase a sewing machine, for yet another of Effie’s tasks was to continually patch and mend the pilgrim house linen, which was in short supply. The Auckland Bahá'ís also presented a gift to the new building - a recent photo of their community. An additional eight bedroom suites were added in the second half of 1927, which required of Effie and Fujita much carrying of bricks and general tidying up in preparation for the building work. In later years this pilgrim house, which Effie so lovingly assisted in establishing, was occupied by the Universal House of Justice, and since 1982 it has housed the offices of the members of the International Teaching Centre.
There were, of course, others assisting Shoghi Effendi maintain the buildings and grounds of the Bahá'í holy places in Haifa and Akka during Effie’s years there, although she seems to have been the only resident Westerner (apart from Dr Esslemont, whose story is told below). Yahdullah, who was from the Persian village of Seysan but whose parents were Turkish, was caretaker of the Garden of Ridvan and Bahjí. He was assisted at the Ridvan garden by his sons Isfandiar and Faroud. Following the death of Abul Qasim Khurusani, who had been caretaker on Mt Carmel during the lifetime of `Abdu'l-Bahá, these sons were appointed caretakers of the gardens and the archive on Mt Carmel, which service they continued for at least as long as Effie remained in Haifa. Also resident in Haifa were Mirza Jenabi Fazel and his wife.8
In Effie's first year in Haifa Shoghi Effendi was hard at work extending the terraces surrounding the Holy Tomb. She perceived that the Guardian's life was "crowded with many difficult problems and vicissitudes" which had both saddened him and impaired his health.9
By October 1925 news of success in regaining the house of Bahá'u'lláh in Bagdad, and receipt of a letter from Queen Marie of Rumania had helped cheer Shoghi Effendi. But then the passing of one of his closest companions delivered an untimely and saddening blow.
The Passing of John Esslemont
John Ebenezer Esslemont was born in May, 1874 in Aberdeen, Scotland. After studying medicine and surgery at the University of Aberdeen he worked in Euroope and South Africa and even for two years in Australia. He learnt of the Bahá'í Faith in December 1914 and after becoming a member, a Bahá'í community gathered around him in Bournemouth. He became chairman of Bournemouth’s first Local Spiritual Asssembly, and became vice-president of the National Spiritual Assembly of England. Dr Esslemont decided to write an introductory text book about the Bahá'í Teachings, and penned the first nine chapters of Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era during the first world war. 'Abdu'l-Bahá invited him to Haifa in November 1919, and personally read the first three and a half chapters.
After becoming Guardian Shoghi Effendi invited Dr Esslemont to once again move to Haifa. He arrived in November 1924 to act as Shoghi Effendi's secretary and his close companion. During 1925 he was engaged in translating What is the Bahá'í Message? into Esperanto for the Universal Esperanto Congress in Geneva in August 1925, but when his health deteriorated, he retired to the black forest of Germany for the summer. Effie wrote:
We expect Dr. Esslemont next Wednesday 30th September and he is bringing two ladies, German Bahá'ís. He has been the guest of one of them. He is better but still very short of breath he says. We hope the weather will be cooler. It has been very hot. It is like the Sydney climate, very humid and makes one very tired.10
Esslemont’s health had not recoved, however, and despite the assistance of Bahá'í physicians Yunis Khan and Mirza Arastu as well as two European doctors, died on November 22. The extent of Shoghi Effendi’s loss is discernable in his letter about Dr Esslement to the Bahá'ís of the world:
His close association with my work in Haifa, in which I had placed fondest hopes, was suddenly cut short. His book, however, an abiding monument to his pure intention, will, alone, inspire generations yet unborn to tread the path of truth and service as steadfastly and as unostentatiously as was trodden by its beloved author. The Cause he loved so well he served even unto his last day with exemplary faith and unstinted devotion. His tenacity of faith, his high integrity, his self-effacement, his industry and painstaking labours were traits of a character the noble qualities of which will live and live forever after him. To me personally he was the warmest of friends, a trusted counsellor, an indefatigable collaborator, a lovable companion.11
Living in Haifa
When Effie first arrived she was greatly affected by heat, and so was not well. Effie often wrote letters on behalf of the women of the household. Late in 1925 Effie was ill and spend time away from Haifa, although a letter from the Guardian to an Australian Bahá'ís written in December 1925 reported her as being in good health, and still resident in Haifa.112 On 31 May 1926 she registered as an immigrant to Palestine. In July 1926 she explained to the Bahá'ís in Australia:
Dear friends I am on behalf of you all trying to render with love and humbleness to our beloved Guardian and the Holy Family cheerful service and I write many letters for the members of the Holy Family and at the request of Shoghi Effendi I am endeavouring to correspond with different Western Assemblies. I will give you my news next Sunday 1st August being the 19 day Feast...13
The hardships that Effie endured living in Haifa were more than compensated for by the privilege of being in the presence of Bahíyyih Khánum, the daughter of Bahá'u'lláh. To Effie she was "Khánum", a title meaning "lady" or "mistress". Effie shared with the Dunns an incident reflecting the affection that existed between herself and "Khánum":
The other morning I went over to the Holy Household and the greatest Holy Leaf called me to sit beside her. It was almost 9.30 am and she was just going to have her breakfast. She poured a little rose water in her hand, and drank it and then offered it to me to put the dregs of it on my dress. She had just warm bread and cheese and broke off a piece and put it in my mouth.14
At other times Khánum sent Effie little sweet cakes, or shortbread; she, in turn, presented Bahíyyih Khánum with boxes of embroidered handkerchiefs on her birthdays - which she knew would quickly be given away to visitors. Later Effie wrote of being with Bahíyyih Khánum in Haifa:
During my long sojourn there I never saw once any difference in her life. She always radiated to rich and poor alike that wonderful radiating love. She exemplified all the attributes that make a perfect life. I just love to read and read that beautiful pen-picture of Khánum written by Marjorie Morten. Marjorie just effaces herself and brings Khánum a living person before one's eyes. How Khánum loved dear Marjorie and Marjorie loved her.15
By her life and manner Khanum taught Effie much about service. She once wrote:
We ought to show something greater than forgiveness in meeting the cruelties and strictures in our lives. To be hurt and forgive is saintly but far beyond this is the power to comprehend and not be hurt. This power we may have...acceptance without complaint and it should be associated with our name. We ought never to be known to complain or lament. It is not that we would "make the best of things," but that we may find in everything, even in calamity, the gems of enduring wisdom. We ought never be impatient. We ought to be as incapable of impatience as one would be of revolt. This not being so much long-suffering as quiet awareness of the forces that operate in the hours of dark or years of waiting and inactivity. Always we ought to move with the larger rhythm, the wider sweep, towards our ultimate goal, in that complete acquiescence, that perfect chord which underlies the spirit of the faith itself. -- Bahiyyih Khanum Bahá'í World, Vol. V, p. 185
Fujita, the Japanese servant of `Abdu'l-Bahá whom Effie affectionately called "fudge", became a treasured friend. He would spend several days at a time making pomegranate juice at the Garden of Ridvan, where the household also obtained watermelons, sweet lemons, and ripe dates; and on trips to the Post Office in Haifa, he would take the time to catch up on gossip in the shops of friends in the town. Effie and Fujita shared in many escapades. Once, in January 1930, Effie, Fujita and Miss Lentz got bogged when attempting to cross the river Keshon during a week of heavy rain: many cars passed before a motor lorry stopped and pulled the trio onto "terra firma".16 Such adventures in the company of Fujita brought happiness to Effie's sometimes arduous weeks and months of labour-filled duties.
Glimpses of Shoghi Effendi
During some periods Shoghi Effendi was so busy that Effie did not see him, or only observed him from a distance. When there were no pilgrims in Haifa he kept busy in his study, walking only in the evenings to visit the Shrines and see the gardens. When he had considerable correspondence, he even curtailed these outings. When he did see Effie, Shoghi Effendi would ask if she had received any news from Australia: was Herald of the South still being published? (The first issue of this magazine had appeared through the efforts of the New Zealand Bahá'ís in 1925). Shoghi Effendi had not received word from the Australians for some time. Despite the immensity of his labours and concerns, he maintained interest in her welfare, and in her news from home. Once, when Effie decided to find out how late the Guardian worked into the evening, she stayed up for a few nights in a row, but each time, she later reported to Gertrude Blum, she fell asleep before Shoghi Effendi's light went out.17 After periods of intense work in Haifa, Shoghi Effendi would depart for much needed rest. In 1926 he departed for Switzerland shortly after celebration of the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh on 28 May, and was jointed there by his mother and sister in August, the three returning to Haifa together on October 15. Again, in June 1927, Shoghi Effendi rested in Switzerland in the company of his sister.
Food was always cooked at the Master's house, and was carried to the pilgrim house by Fujita and an Arab youth who kept it hot on a blue-flame stove. Effie would then inform Shoghi Effendi that all was ready, and notify the pilgrims that the Guardian would partake lunch with them. As they entered the room, Shoghi Effendi greeted each pilgrim and assigned them their seats, choosing a different one each day to sit at the head of the table with him. He was always "humble, self-effacing, so grateful and gracious". He asked Effie that she not set him a place at the head of the table so that we would not be considered superior by the visiting pilgrims. When all were seated conversation started and many questions were asked and answered. Some pilgrims came with note-books and pencils:
Just before leaving, Shoghi Effendi would say with a twinkle in his eye, "Friends, I noticed some of you busy with note-book and pencil. If you are forwarding the information to the friends in America, just add a foot-note and say: these are my impressions of what Shoghi Effendi said during our table conversations."18
Living in Haifa, Effie discovered Shoghi Effendi's great sense of humour. Once when some Persian women came for pilgrimage, complete with chadors (veils) wrapped tightly across their faces, and bowed in response to Shoghi Effendi's remarks without speaking, he commented that, if they hadn't bowed at intervals, he would not have known if he was speaking to their faces or to their backs. Once when Shoghi Effendi came upon Effie as she was changing the linen of a room in which a pilgrim had stayed just one night, the Guardian made inquiry as to what she was doing, and when told, remarked "He slept in the bed for one night, and do you think the Bahá'ís are dirty people?".19
Communicating with the Australian Bahá'ís
Effie’s correspondence with the Australian and New Zealand Bahá'ís brought them into much closer contact with the world centre of their Faith. Through her they learnt more about the work of Shoghi Effendi and the holy family, about events in other parts of the Bahá'í world. At the end of her long letter of 23 December 1925, for instance, she added:
I thought you might like to know how to address envelopes to Greatest Holy Leaf, Holy Mother and Holy Leaves: Bahíyyih Khánum, Munírih Khánum,
To Holy Leaves:
Díyáíyyih Khánum - eldest daughter, mother of Shoghi Effendi
Rúhá Khánum - 2nd daughter
Túbá Khánum - 3rd daughter
Munavvar Khánum - 4th daughter
Shoghi Effendi just likes Shoghi
Tragically, the daughters of `Abdu'l-Bahá and Munírih Khánum, together with their children, later betrayed their heritage by siding with `Abdu'l-Bahá's avowed and sworn detractors and opponents, and Shoghi Effendi had no choice but to name them as breakers of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.
Perhaps most importantly, Effie communicated with the Australian Bahá'ís on such important matters as the formation of a national administrative body. Before the end of 1925 she conveyed to the Australian Bahá'ís the Guardian's thoughts concerning the National Spiritual Assembly they were seeking to establish. He had requested her, she informed them, to write on his behalf to impress on them the need for full consultation on the matter, and for them all to then "cheerfully abide" by the majority decision. He was not able at that time to give a definite view regarding the formation of the National body because he had not yet established regular correspondence with the various Australasian Assemblies and groups.
Effie's view, which she put gladly as a member of the Melbourne Assembly (to which she had been elected in her absence, in April), was that there was need, before establishment of any National Body, for the Local Assemblies to establish communication with Shoghi Effendi and with each other. She did not consider the antipodean community sufficiently strong to form a National body, which would have been, if created, something of a "weak edifice" among the other National Assemblies established by that time. She called on the Australian and New Zealand Bahá'ís to first foster among themselves greater unity, and suggested that they establish closer contact with the North American Bahá'í community so as to become more familiar with Bahá'í administration. Effie also instructed the Australians at this time, on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, that each individual believer was permitted to have a copy of `Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament - but that it was not to be published or given into the hands of those "merely interested in the cause".20
In her long letter of 23 December 1925 Effie wrote:
These last few weeks have brought me word from various members of our Local Spiritual Assemblies, each referring to the proposed convention for the forming of a National Spiritual Assembly for Australia. I have been thinking and praying about it ever since I received news that it was the intention of our assemblies to give this election consideration.
Yesterday I was able to have a talk with our Beloved Guardian and he wishes me to impress upon you that it is very necessary that each assembly and their group should consult with one another upon this matter thoroughly and after consultation if the majority decide as to its formation the minority should cheerfully abide by the majority's decision and be willing to give its whole-hearted and cheerful support. If this were not so then inharmony and discord would arise and progress of the Cause arrested. You see Shoghi Effendi is not able to give us very definite advice on the matter for as yet he has had no regular correspondence with the representatives of our respective assemblies and groups, and therefore is not advised as to their functioning and activities. He wishes me to tell you that daily he prays at the Holy Shrines on your behalf. Being a member of one of your groups in fact through your confidence in me one of the chosen nine to form our Melbourne Local Assembly I know you wish me to give my opinion, so I say let us endeavour first to get our Local Assemblies in true working order, connecting up with our Beloved Guardian and giving him regular information as to the work accomplished by our individual groups. But if it is agreed to undertake this vital issue, I recognise that first consensus of opinion must be obtained from the Local Spiritual Assemblies collectively and whatever the majority decides, it is my desire to abide by its decision and give my wholehearted support. If we do not do that then we are not obeying our Beloved Master or giving allegiance to our Beloved Guardian. Disobedience to them is disobedience to God. My dear brothers and sisters the matter cannot be decided by a few it must be agreed upon by the whole Bahá'í community of Australia and New Zealand.
We are about to take a very large step in the history of the Bahá'í Cause in Australia, and each one of us must pray and give it our earnest consideration. Let our steps be in the Light of Guidance and not in the 'darkness of error' for this is a matter of great importance, and not only the present but the future to be considered. We all know that the desire of our hearts is to give our loving help and co-operation to our Beloved Guardian. That being so we first as Local Spiritual Assemblies must get in touch with him and inform him of our activities regularly, so that he may be able to have a clear idea of the situation of the Bahá'í Movement in Australia and New Zealand. Until this is done how can we expect him to advise us on matters pertaining to the Cause? We must, dear friends, deliberate wisely and well upon this issue and view it from every possible angle. Remember that a false step taken by a toddling child injures and cripples it for years, perhaps for life. We are now very young cornstalks in the Bahá'í field. Have our groups with their respective Assemblies grown sufficiently yet to produce ears of corn? Are those ears full and ripe to be ground in the mill and produce good flour? To build a factory is not enough. We must place in it machinery. Even that is not enough. To progress we must apply the power to the machinery, and then still go further, feed that machinery with the necessary material for the production of the article required. Therefore our forming of the National Spiritual Assembly is a great issue. It must not be a mere figurehead, but must be a live body, active and vigorous and so firmly built as to be able to stand the stress of the years to come. It must be raised on a firm basis to be a help to our Beloved Guardian, otherwise it will be a burden and a hindrance. Let us not be over-eager or too impatient in this matter, and as we think and talk about it remember these words of `Abdu'l-Bahá: "Have beautiful patience in the path of thy Glorious Lord" Also the motto "Be prepared". Be assured that our Beloved Guardian and all the Holy Family are offering their prayers on our behalf, that we may be guided rightly in our deliberations. Humbly and sincerely (though I feel so unworthy) I offer up my Supplications at the Holy Shrines on your behalf and mine for our guidance. If we are to help our Beloved Guardian we must be united in all that we do. In the "Hidden Words" Bahá'u'lláh says "My Unity is My strength, I have designed it for thee. Attire thyself therewith that thou mayest be to all eternity the revelation of My Eternal Being".
Australia means "The Land of the Dawning". May the Spiritual Dawning which is now enveloping her, burst ere long, into a radiant morn, and that morn into a perfect day. Let us not make clouds and veils by our deeds and actions to obscure the "Sun of Truth" that at present is flooding its rays of pure light upon us. ...
Now my dear friends Shoghi Effendi has given me permission to tell you that each true and firm believer may have for him or herself a copy of the Master's Will and Testament. It is only to be given into the hands of the true and firm believers, and he enjoins you not to publish or take extracts from it, or give it into the hands of people that are only interested in the Cause. This, dear friends, is to us a great privilege and bounty. Regard this precious document as a sacred trust, and let each believer guard and keep it safely, by following our Beloved Guardian's wishes regarding it.
You will be glad to hear that work has been commenced to finish the New Pilgrims House, and if all goes well it should be completed early next year. Shoghi Effendi is having at present the gardens extended at the Holy Tomb, and lovely as it is now, in a little while it will be more so. They are being extended at the back of the Holy Tomb, round about the clump of ten cyprus trees, where Bahá'u'lláh sat and rested and revealed a tablet. We are having very little rain, and it is needed badly. Yesterday while walking on Carmel with Munavvar Khánum (`Abdu'l-Bahá's youngest daughter) I found the first cyclamen flower for the season. Carmel will (they tell me) be covered with flowers in a few months time. I shall have the pleasure of seeing it so.
Once again I wish to assure you of our Beloved Guardian's prayers for us all and that he is eagerly awaiting news from each Assembly and Group, so that he may become acquainted with you and have knowledge of your progress. He sends you his warm love and greetings. The Greatest Holy Leaf, the Holy Mother, and Holy Leaves especially requested me to convey on their behalf warm love and greetings to you, and tell you they are always so glad to hear news about you all. I send my love and ask you dear brothers and sisters this coming year to try and fulfil that command of Bahá'u'lláh "Let it now be seen what your endeavours in the path of detachment will reveal".
Ever in His Name, your loving sister and co-worker, Effie E. Baker.
Through this important initial correspondence between Effie and the Local Spiritual Assemblies in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland, the Bahá'ís understood that they were not sufficiently prepared for the successful establishment of a National Assembly. Clara wrote to Greta Lamprill that Effie was:
doing this work for Shoghi Effendi - what a beautiful thing this is for Australia, we have as it were an ambassador at the court to instruct us - she sent us a private letter too - so now we know there is no need of thinking of a National Spiritual Assembly until all the assemblies are formed and working in unison as he instructs in Effie's letter.21
Writing to the Perth Assembly, Clara repeated the metaphor:
Please write regularly to Effie - she is your headquarters - not father and mother - we are only pioneers and one of yourselves - Effie is our ambassador at the court of our young Spiritual King.22
The wisdom of Effie's advice offered on behalf of the Guardian soon became apparent, as many of the first local Assemblies decreased in numbers and impetus through the years of the depression. When the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Australia and New Zealand was eventually established in 1934, a mere three Local Assemblies - Sydney, Adelaide and Auckland - could muster sufficient numbers of Bahá'ís prepared to forego all allegiances to their former creeds and religions, and to offer complete fidelity to the Guardianship of Shoghi Effendi.
Conversations with Jenab-i-Fazel
Effie wrote extensive and descriptive letters home with such apparent ease that we momentarily forget the incredible circumstances in which she wrote. Although her days were filled, as her letters attest, with demanding physical tasks, she quested in her leisure hours for new knowledge of her Faith, which she shared enthusiastically with her compatriots. Reading her now, we acquiesce to her conviction that her presence in Haifa was a joyous journey of learning, during which the physical demands cost less than the intellectual and spiritual rewards.
The extent to which Effie managed to glean new information from older and more experienced Bahá'ís, at the same time that she fulfilled her many tasks maintaining the Pilgrim hostel, was remarkable. In 1925 she conveyed to the Australian Bahá'ís such information gleaned from listening to Jenabi Fadl as the meanings of the terms Allah'u'abha and Ya Baha-el-Abha (sic); the reason why the Báb's number was nineteen; and clarification of the meaning of the "universal temple" - especially since the description given them by Martha Root proved to be quite fanciful.
The Greatest Name
"I want to tell you about a talk I had with Mirza Jenabi Fazel on the significance of the greatest name, and I find that for our beads we should use Allah'u'abha and not "Ya Baha-el-abha". This is how he explained it:-
The Greatest Name is the word "Baha". It means "Glory", and its numerical value is nine, which means "perfection".
"Allah'u'abha" means "Glory of glories" and is the form of worship, and is therefore used with the beads, being repeated 95 times in the morning first thing. The repeating being for firmness in the Bahá'í Faith and that is written by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitab-l-akdas, where he says every one must sit down and turning their face to the place of the Manifestation of God repeat the Greatest Name 95 times, and it is also to be used in the time of asking assistance or help of God. "Ya" means Oh" and when we wish to worship God we would not say Oh! Lord! If anyone opposes us `Abdu'l-Bahá says say Ya Baha-el abha, when going about our work say it but Allah'u'abha is the form to use for the beads and is the form of worship. In the time of the Báb four forms were used as greetings:
1. Allah'u'akbar. God is greatest.
2. Allah'u'A'zam " " "
3. Allah'u'Agmal (pronounced Adye-mal.) God is most beautiful
4. Allah'u'Abha Glory of Glories.
Bahá'u'lláh chose the fourth form.23
Effie's conversations with Jenabe Fazel also informed her as to the future structure and functions of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár. She had related to him a description of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár given the Australian Bahá'ís by Martha Root. They were led to understand that the nine doors to the Universal Temple were to lead to nine interior chapels. At seven of these worship was to be offered according to the ritual of the great religious traditions. The rituals of New Thought, Theosophy, and other modern religions, would be allowed the other two chapels. At the centre of the auditorium would be raised galleries from where some 3,000 children would sing praises to God. This account much amused Fazel, who pointed out that it was "a very nice explanation but purely imagination". He then offered an explanation, which Effie transcribed and passed on to the Dunns:
The idea of the Universal Temple is given by or written down in the Kitab-el Akdas by Bahá'u'lláh and He says in every city a very high and beautiful Temple of worship should be built in the name of Mashriqu'l-Adhkár. It is to be entirely without decoration or pictures or statues etc. There the people will worship God in the morning and evening and `Abdu'l-Bahá in some of his talks about the temple explained it will have nine doors, nine avenues, 9 gardens, etc. All different religions and races can enter from every door and praise God (there will be no raised platform) under its dome. The significance of the nine doors, gardens etc, is because nine is the perfect number and the number of the greatest name. All people are permitted to enter any door. If it were restricted to different doors leading into chapels for the different religions, etc, it would at once mean separation and be contrary to the Bahá'í principle of universality which the teaching of Bahá'u'lláh aims at establishing.24
Effie realised that it was important for her to establish the correct statements on such matters, and convey them to the Australian Bahá'ís before incorrect notions gain wide acceptance. In May 1926 she wrote a circular letter, to the Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Sydney Assemblies, to the Hobart Friends, and to the New Zealand Assembly:
My dear friends and Co Workers, I ask you to forgive my long silence but in the work that has entailed with the moving into the new Pilgrim House it being only in a half finished state when we entered I haven't realised how quickly the weeks have gone. I will endeavour now that we are getting a little head way with the work to try and correspond more frequently. The days of the Ridvan have come and past, being to Bahá'ís a time of joy and importance for firstly they commemorate the dawning of the Sun of Truth for this new age whose vivifying rays leave already awakened the dead spirit of the World into fresh activity and as we celebrate the Feast to commemorate that memorable day 21st April 1863 we remember that once more the Glory of God was made manifest on Earth.
We who embrace the Bahá'í Faith and desire to partake in its Promulgation and administration must endeavour to keep it free from limitation and Separateness, must ever see that by our personal thoughts and ideas we do not limit its unlimitlessness and cause this Great Era of Universality which Bahá'u'lláh has ushered in to lose its true objective, that is, the unifying of the People of the World both in spiritual thought and material progression into the recognition of the One True God so that all National Political social and religious prejudice may be eliminated and the one great brotherhood of the world established. Secondly, they are important for the various groups of Friends partake in the fresh election of their Local Spiritual Assembly that group of nine members entrusted to administrate faithfully and sincerely the activities of their respective groups and I trust each group has given due recognition to this important feature and that in due time our Beloved Guardian will receive reports and affirmations so that he may be acquainted with the representative body elected by each coming year. In former letters I have mentioned that our Guardian desires to hear from you individually as well as collectively as he thinks it is (at the present time) essential for him to have that phase in the Cause, but when writing I personally ask you dear Friends to word your letters as concisely as possible, expressing in few words your love and appreciation eliminating long details of personal troubles and ideas, etc.
Such letters take so much of his valuable time in reading and you cannot imagine what an almost superhuman task the vital problems and perplexities of the Cause that he has to ponder over from day to day are. I am so anxious that Australia will take up the work for the Cause with the true spirit of Self effacement, reliance, ardour, fervour and reasonableness in all matters, that the Friends will ever bring - as `Abdu'l-Bahá enjoins in his last Will and Testament - joy and gladness to our Beloved Guardian's heart, by being able to send in faithfully reports of the true solidarity amongst the Friends. Overzealousness and eagerness though is sometimes more a retarding than a progressive factor. Let our deeds be a reflection of our words but see that our words are of God. The only thing that is going to bring about the right working conditions is the true spirit of self sacrifice pervading the hearts of the believers which will cause self effacement, humbleness, sincerity and faithfulness to be the outstanding characteristics of our lives....(23 May 1926)
Early in the year she reported to the Australians and New Zealanders that Shoghi Effendi had received from the North American Bahá'ís a "plan of unified action to spread the Bahá'í Cause". The Perth Bahá'ís inquired of the American National Assembly whether they could be involved in the plan, only to have it explained to them that the plan was essentially for the Americans.25 Margaret Stevenson, writing to the Bahá'ís of New York in September 1926, reported:
In Effie Baker's last circular letter from Haifa, she tells us that our beloved Guardian was taking a much needed vacation and we trust he will return much refreshed in body and spirit. We are always pleased to hear from Effie any news of the Holy Household".26
Maysie Almond reported for the Adelaide Assembly:
We are happy to hear of the activities of the various groups as such knowledge cheers and encourages. Letters often come from our sister Effie Baker, of the pilgrim house Haifa, giving news of the work and workers there, and loving thoughts and messages from the Holy family.27
Pilgrims and other visitors
Bahá'ís came to visit the Holy Land from all parts of the globe. Most came for short periods, either on pilgrimage, or to assist the Guardian with one or other special assignment. In December 1925, shortly after Effie returned to Haifa from a break, American Bahá'ís Dr Susan Moody and Mrs Adelaide Sharp visited from Persia, where they operated a school for girls. On 11 November 1926 Effie wrote in a circular letter to the Australian Bahá'ís:
Yesterday we had a young American lady and her mother to dine with us. She has been sent by the St. Stephen College, Missouri, to investigate the various Religious Movements in the East, so she came to see Shoghi Effendi. She was a very nice girl and showed that she was spiritual as well as intellectual, and it was very interesting to hear her speak on the new broad methods they are trying out in their College. They have been observing the students to ascertain whether they have any spiritual trend or whether they are void of it, and they find that they are really spiritually inclined, but this is the time when Religion must go hand in hand with Science. They have been working along the lines of a broad and sane interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount, and their endeavour has been to try and urge a student to go back to his community and put vitality into it. They certainly have received the rays of the Sun of Truth, not knowing from whence they come. Probably after her interview with Shoghi Effendi this morning, she may be able to recognise the source.
Ruhi Effendi and I represented the Bahá'í Community at the Service held at the little War Memorial here to commemorate Armistice Day, and on behalf of Shoghi Effendi placed a wreath on the Cenotaph, also a wreath of Gum leaves for the 28 Australian and the one New Zealander who lie there.
Miss. Hoagg leaves for Italy on Saturday morning. We shall miss her very much.
Shoghi Effendi received a copy of the "Herald of the South" this week, and he was very pleased with it, and urges its' editors to try and develop and expand its scope. He was pleased to see that the friends in Australia and New Zealand are corresponding with other countries.
Today, we celebrate, according to Mohammadan calendar, the declaration of the Báb and the Birthday of the Master. We will visit the Holy Tomb this afternoon. Shoghi Effendi went and spent the night at Bahjí. I wish to ask the friends if they send any papers to Shoghi Effendi, to please mark the article they think he would like to see and if possible underline the paragraph that has any bearing on the Movement. He spends so much of his valuable time searching over papers to see what the friends have sent them for. You have no idea what a stupendous task it is to cope with his mail. Personally I think it is better not to forward papers unless they have something vital pertaining to the Cause.
Shoghi Effendi was pleased with the reference to the persecutions in Persia written by Mr. Brewer and also the article (I think Mrs Blundell sent me the paper containing it) in the Auckland paper which gave Martha Root's account. He has forwarded the reports to the Tehran Assembly.
I trust that you are all keeping together in a united little band and doing your utmost to assimilate and put into practice these teachings which are certainly the solvent for today's problems.
As yet we have had no rain, and it is badly needed now. The gardens at the Holy Tomb are getting more beautiful every day and should in a short time be full of bloom.
Effie's residence in Haifa not only brought the Australian community into closer contact with happenings there, but allowed the Bahá'ís in Haifa, as well as Shoghi Effendi, to learn of conditions in Australia. Acting as secretary for Shoghi Effendi in 1927, Ethel Rosenberg wrote to the Perth community:
Our dear Effie Baker tells us that Perth is not only a very beautiful place but extremely healthy and we therefore hope that residence there for a few months will be of much benefit to Mrs Dunn's health - Effie Baker and Fujita thank you for your kind messages to them - they both continue their devoted service here for the Guardian.28
Bahá'í Holy Days
Effie visited the Shrine of the Bab on Sunday afternoons. On Holy Days, she joined the other Bahá'ís resident in Haifa, as well as any visitors, in special observances at the Shrines in Haifa, or otherwise at Bahjí. When Effie described for the Australian Bahá'ís the celebration of Holy Days in Haifa she both educated and inspired them, for the Australians were grasping for understanding of their new religion, and Effie's communications assisted them in gaining a feel for the spiritual and administrative heart of their faith.
#Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh
In 1926 she wrote to describe the commemoration of the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, held on 12 May. The vivid picture of this solemn and dignified occasion conveyed in her account must have enchanted the Australian Bahá'ís:
I want to tell you about our visit to Bahjí to commemorate the night of the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh which took place on the 28th. of May 1892. Most of the Friends went during the day-time to the Holy Shrine. Shoghi Effendi accompanied by the Greatest Holy Leaf and the Holy Mother left by car at dusk. I went with Munavvar Khánum and our American guests and Ruhi Effendi at 9 p.m. In three-quarters of an hour we were at the Holy Tomb. Bathed in the silvery light of the moon and bright with many electric lights it was a wonderful sight as we approached. Looking across the Bay of Akka one could see a myriad of lights, just as if the stars had come to spend a night on earth. This denoted Haifa situated on the slopes of Mount Carmel. With our Beloved Guardian the men believers were sitting out in the beautiful little garden facing towards the Holy Tomb. At intervals they chanted singly and in chorus. The ladies of the Holy Household and all of us visited the Holy Shrines silently. Praying and meditating until nearly the hour of the departure of Bahá'u'lláh. I went out into the garden at midnight and sitting behind a screen of green shrubs listened to our Beloved Guardian chanting in sweet melodious tones, his face radiant with the light of love and devotion upon it. The ladies during the early hours of the morning retired to an ante-chamber off the inner garden. As the hour approached when the Spirit of "Him whom God made manifest" took its flight to the realms of the Abha Kingdom our Beloved Guardian entered the inner garden which was so full of light and luminosity from the many electric bulbs. Surely a fitting symbol of the "Great Sun of Truth" which had arisen and shed its vivifying rays for this "New Age". Followed by the men believers, in great humility and reverence, he approached, and kneeling placed his forehead upon the threshold of the Holy Shrine, then for a moment prayed silently. It was such a solemn, reverent, and inspiring time. At the hour of the passing our beloved Guardian stood and chanted the "Tablet of Visitation" and the night's Holy Vigil ended. We then departed, reaching Haifa at early dawn. I think it would be a great help and inspiration, if, on the night of the Ascension, you could possibly come together, and celebrate this solemn occasion, by keeping this Holy Vigil.29
By describing such events in detail, Effie sought to convey to the Australian community something of the spiritual atmosphere which prevailed in Haifa. At other times, her purpose was to convey knowledge of the Faith which she gleaned from the Persian Bahá'ís resident in Haifa, or from Shoghi Effendi.
While retaining this vital link with the progress of the Bahá'í community in her home country, Effie gradually settled into domestic and social life in Haifa. At one time she and Ruhi Effendi represented the Bahá'ís at an Armistice Day service at Haifa's war cemetery, and placed a wreath of gum-leaves on the cenotaph to honour the 28 Australians and one New Zealander who lay buried there. From 1927 she spent two afternoons each week assisting Dr Cotching, a "charming English woman", care for some 191 babies at Haifa's Infant Welfare Centre, which had been established in 1925 by the English residents of Haifa who sought to counter the illiteracy and superstitions of Arab mothers:
We meet with some very sad cases, where the children are under nourished on account of poverty. As yet our funds are slender, but we do what we can to give relief to these children, by providing milk tickets for them. Mrs Cotching has found it hard to get suitable workers, many promised to help, came for a few weeks, then left off. When the President of the Centre told her I had offered my services, she was rather dubious about having me, but as she was in desperate need of someone, she told Mrs Abrahams to send me along. Last week Dr told me this, then she said "you are a god send to me! I find you a doer, not a talker." In this way we can show to outsiders that Bahá'ís are willing to cooperate with those who are rendering loving service to their fellow men, for we have perceived the lamp from whence the light is pouring. They too have seen its rays, and by trying to mirror forth its pure light in our lives, maybe they will perceive the source of these life-giving rays also.30
When Túbá's husband Mirza Mohsin died in 1927 his was the first Bahá'í burial in Palestine. This breakthrough in recognition of Bahá'í laws followed the decision of an Egyptian court that Bahá'ís were not Muslims. It allowed for the burial of Bahá'ís without the reading a Muslim service by a Mufti. Effie shared with Bahá'í News a description of Mirza Mohsen Afnan's funeral, relating its significance as the first fully Bahá'í funeral service, which was not required by law to include Muslim rites.31
An earthquake in Haifa in July of 1927 caused excitement, trepidation and devastation across Palestine. The quake razed one hundred houses in Akka, and homes in the Bahá'í village of Addassia, in Transjordan, near the shores of the sea of Galilee, were badly damaged. The quake caused its most serious damage in Nablus, a historic town mid-way from Haifa to Jerusalem. It was the town, Effie informed her Australian friends in a graphic depiction of conditions immediately the quake, known as Shechem, which was associated with the oldest period of Jewish settlement in Palestine, the place where Abraham first pitched his tent and set up an alter. Many ancient buildings and churches had been damaged, and there was not a whole street left in the town. Some 250 dead had been removed, another 500 were injured, and thousands were now homeless. Workmen had had to pour "gallons of phenyle upon the ruins" before they could commence their work. Effie had been at the Infant Welfare Centre, preparing to weigh a baby, when:
there seemed a sudden rush of wind, then I felt myself swaying back and forth, I looked out of the window and the building in front seemed to be rocking also. It lasted about ten seconds. I was wondering what was going to happen to our room, and didn't realise it was an earthquake till Mrs Cotching, our medical officer said so. She really thought our building would collapse. Some of the Arab women waiting their turn, rushed into the room, they were so afraid. We little dreamed then how severe it had been in other places.32
It was always important to Effie to receive news or gifts from home. Muhammad Mustapha, the young man who worked in the Telegraph Department at Port Said whom Effie had first met when she passed through Egypt at the beginning of 1925, visited Haifa each year, and assisted Effie in sending letters and parcels to Australia.
Herbert Webb of Perth supplied 19 shrubs and herbs which the West Australian Department of Agriculture felt would suit the climate of Palestine, for planting with the first autumn rains. At the prompting of Maysie Almond, assemblies sent books and magazines. When the Dunns suggested to the Sydney Assembly in 1927 that they send Effie a "love gift", the community responded by raising four pounds. Melbourne Assembly sent 3 pounds 2/6.
Effie would have loved to greet some Australians in Haifa. Margaret Dixson planned to travel from Melbourne, but was unable to; Mrs Henderson, another Melbourne Bahá'í, visited Canada and England without journeying to Haifa: Effie hoped that the Dunns could one day visit. Occasionally, someone would send a copy of Sydney's Illustrated Mail, or a South Australian paper, from which she could get a feel for events. "I am always glad to hear news from the friends", Effie wrote to one friend in 1927,
"for one seems shut off from the rest of the world here and is almost in ignorance of what is happening in other parts, and it is only rarely that a paper of any kind comes to hand. My uncle has been sending me the illustrated paper with the accounts of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York to Australia. What festivities you've all been indulging in and a right royal welcome met them in every state. I'm sure that the personal contact with the members of the Royal family does more than all the representatives of the nation put together to bring about the bond of affection and loyalty between the motherland and her dominions.33
Civil events in Palestine were not as encouraging:
Dear Friends and Co-Workers,
I am taking a few hours off, to try to cope with my piled up correspondence. A hot wind is blowing today, much to the danger of the gardens, as there is not sufficient water to keep them moist; already the lawns are burnt. I thank the dear friends for the illustrated papers that have come to hand. Mrs Wilkins sent the Illustrated Mail from Sydney, and I've received a South Australian paper with illustrations of the visit of the Duke and Duchess [of York]. I felt a longing to fly home. At present Palestine is suffering from a financial crisis and there is much unemployment. Strikes are prevalent amongst the Jewish element; a number of Bolsheviks from Russia are always making trouble; the Arabs dislike the Jews intensely. Please convey my thanks to everybody for all the little acts of kindness that come my way and forgive me if I do not write personally for I have little time to spare for correspondence. Shoghi Effendi is feeling the benefit of his holiday, Ruhi Effendi will attend Green Acre this year. The members of the Holy Family send you all love and greetings. I pray for you all that you may be helped and blessed in Service to the Cause,
Late in 1927 conditions in Haifa were hard, as winter approached. There had been an influx of Jews from Russia, but little work to be had. Disgruntled, many of the new arrivers were demonstrating against British rule. "Many people think the next war will start in these regions."35 Haifa's religious activities, unlike its civil tensions, were to Effie a constant spectacle:
We have come to regard Australia as the home of strikes, I think we can say Palestine is the home of religious feasts and holidays. The English being in occupation, the King's birthday, State, and even ecclesiastical holidays are observed. The Jews and Moslems, Christian Arabs, and English, Greek Orthodox, and Greek Catholic, each hold Feast and Fast days. A great procession will go to the Monastery which contains the cave of Elijah (which `Abdu'l-Bahá says is authentic). Hundreds of people spend the night on the mountains, and then picnic the whole day, the men being usually incapable with arrac, at the end of the day.36
Haifa's climate was extremely difficult. By June of each year, the hot winds were blowing, water was in short supply, the grass burnt, and the gardens in much danger. Summer was a time of enervating heat, with each year worst than the last. A hot wind known as the "sirocco" blew across Haifa from the desert. There were mosquitoes and gnats. At this time each year Effie's head "throbbed" with pain.
The constant flow of pilgrims brought Effie immense joy and made all her labours worthwhile. In March 1926 she met Mrs Bessie Rischbeith, an Australian Theosophist, accompanied by Mrs Kitching, a South African who had assisted Dr Seton establish the New Thought centres in Australia; and she met Victoria Bedekian, promoted Bahá'í childrens' "fellowship gardens" in different countries of the world. In May Juliet Thompson, Mrs Smythe of Boston and Miss Mary Maxwell from Montreal were present. In September 1926 she met Mrs Emogene Hoagg, an early San Francisco Bahá'í then living in Florence in Italy, who knew the Dunns before their arrival in Australia. Mrs Hoagg travelled via Paris, and accompanied to Haifa Shoghi Effendi's cousin Maryam and sister Merhanguez, who had been stuying in Paris for four years.
In September 1926 Mrs Jean Bolles, the sister-in-law of May Maxwell, together with her young son, visited unexpectedly en route from Paris to North America. Effie took the opportunity to visit the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh with them, so that she could pray for the refreshment and spiritual vigor of the Australian Bahá'ís.37
In December 1926 Miss Storey, an English woman of independent means who ran the "Quo Vadis bookshop" in Geneva, and who had recently heard of the Faith from Mrs Stannard in Geneva, arrived accompanied by Mrs Nourse, an American Bahá'í.38
Mountford Mills, Dr Hippolite Dreyfus, Mrs Slade and Mrs Rosenberg had also arrived, the latter in time to make a Christmas tree for the children. Mills and Dreyfus, who had both been in Haifa to assist Shoghi Effendi, had left by late January 1927, leaving him once more in need of a good secretary. Also Mrs Rosenberg remained to assist Shoghi Effendi until May 1927. The Guardian's sister Ruhangiz also gave some secretarial support, but his need was for someone who could assist competently in dealing with both Eastern and Western Bahá'í communities.
2 June 1927
Dear Friends and Co-workers,
Many Persian pilgrims were here for the celebration of the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh on Friday last 28th of May. Only the men pilgrims visited the Bahjí this year. Shoghi Effendi was ill for a fwe days, but he kept the vigil at the Holy Tomb on Friday evening. He left for his vacation on Tuesday evening and I trust he will be able to rest a little. It was very interesting to hear Mrs Schopflocher relate her experiences about the places and people she visited in India and Persia. Martha Root has visited Prague, Norway and Sweden, always giving the message, attending also the Esperanto Congress in Danzig. The Weather is beginning to get warm now.
Fujita and I, now we have no guests, will leave off work to carry bricks, so as to get the place in order for the new furniture, the contract for 8 bedroom suites has been given. It seems quite a time since I had news from Australia. I send you love and greetings from the Family, and assure of their earnest prayers on your behalf. I always remember you all in my prayers, and send you much love,
Ever in His Name,
Your loving Sister and Co-worker,
With no pilgrims to care for for a number of weeks, Effie and Fujita contentrated on completing the new pilgrim house. She made 14 pairs of curtains, and dyed them "art shades" in keeping with the calcimimed walls, and the new furniture. Mrs Lorel Schopflocher arrived in June 1927, and told of her visits to the Bahá'í communities of India and Persia; her husband, Freddie Schopflocher arrived the following January 4th (1928); Mrs Corrine True arrived with her daughter Edna in October 1927, as did Mrs Moffitt, and Dr and Mrs Slater from Chicago. Others to arrive in 1927 included Julia Culver and Dr Sabine, together with her daughter.
16 November 1927
My Dear friends and co-workers,
... All the friends expressed delight at the work done, and thought all was in good taste, so we were glad. It was rather an anxious time for me doing it all alone, but everyone seems pleased and satisfied. I am glad the weather has become a little cooler. It has been such a moist heat, and makes one feel very tired. There has been a big out-break of Cholera in Baghdad, and they are very strict with people entering Palestine now at the Quarentine Office. The Persians coming here are having a hard time to get across the border. I expect there will not be so many present (on account of this) at the Commemoration of the Ascension of the Master. Our last pilgrim left last week, so I am improving the shining hours, by resting in bed. There is an epidemic of fever in Haifa: I decided to join in the happy throung. Today I feel every so much better, temperature normal. It was 102 for four days. Dr Cotching has been very kind to us, but says I must not get up yet.
Effie was particularly happy to welcome Mrs True, as she had been the first to greet the Australian and New Zealand pilgrims when they arrived at the steps of the pilgrim house in Haifa two years earlier. Corrine True wrote her from Wilmette many years later:
It is long since I have had any direct word from you but I am thinking of you so many times, and all the lovely kindnesses you bestowed upon me and Edna and Katherine while we were visiting in the Holy Land.39
Effie had heard a rumour that Queen Marie of Rumania was to visit Haifa, Akka and Jerusalem. The rumour proved true, but the dowager Queen, a daughter of Queen Victoria, who had embraced the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in ...., was thwarted in her attempt to visit Haifa by the political officials who controlled her diary.
There seemed little prospect of returning soon to Australia: "[Bahíyyih] Khánum says I can't go back", Effie reported to friends in, "you all have to come and see me".
When the last pilgrims left in November 1927, Effie contracted dengue fever.
At the beginning of 1928 Mr and Mrs McDaniel visited from the United States, Mr Van Patten from New York; and Miss Storey arrived from Geneva. Following the overnight train-journey that pilgrims generally took to reach Haifa from Egypt, the McDaniels were met by Effie:
‘Please feel that this is your home, that we are here to serve and make you happy, and while here you are the guests of Shoghi Effendi’. Shcu were the kindly words that greeted us on our arrival at the Bahá'í Pilgrim House. ‘And perhaps you know that this building was designed by one American Bahá'í and built through the generosity of other American Bahá'ís’. After several weeks of continual journeying over sea and land, with its exactions and annoyances of drafty cabins, cold, cheerless hotel rooms, bills, tips, and fees, this home seemed a sanctuary of rest.
12 May 1928
My Dear Friends and Co-Workers:
The summer has come in earnest and it has been so hot for the past few weeks. Twice we have had three or four days with the sirocco blowing (the hot wind from the desert) and it is dreadful. My head has been aching a good deal lately. I think it must be the heat. You dare not go outside without a covering on your head here. We have been expecting Mrs Schopflocher here for the past few weeks from Persia but she hasn't arrived so far. Maybe she has gone on to India. There have been new regulations enforced in Persia lately and it isn't easy for the friends to come on a pilgrimage so we didn't have so many here for the days of the Ridvan. No Western guests were here this year at all. Shoghi Effendi came over to see me for a few moments the last day of the Ridvan and he was enquiring about the friends, and about the Herald of the South. He was wondering if it was still being published, as it seems some time since he had a copy. He was greatly cheered by the news of the successful Convention held by the American friends at Chicago and the raising of $40,000 towards the Temple and the pledge of the friends to make an effort in the next year to try to raise the £300,000 estimated in the budget plan, so that the first story may be completed.
....I do not see very much of Shoghi Effendi when no guests are here. He is mostly in his room coping with his correspondence and only goes out for a walk towards evening to visit the Holy Shrine and see the gardens. Sometimes he cannot do that if he has a heavy mail. Khánum and the family are well. I saw Shoghi Effendi just a moment this afternoon and he asked me to convey his love to you and says he wishes to hear from you all. I don't think he has had any news for a long time.
In some years lack of rain through the winter months severely effected food crops, and threatened many with famine. Effie's efforts to assist the poor are recorded in a letter written by Clara Dunn to the Bahá'ís of Perth at the beginning of 1928:
14 February 1928
....Last week we had a letter from Maysie Almod asking us if we as an assembly would think of something taht would help to gladden Effie Baker's heart - and send her some books and magazines as Maysie said she is still human enough to love her own country and all the Australian people - she often tells us in private letters she is lonely for news of the affairs of the assemblies and would sometimes love to fly back and see us all - she said she was so thankful for the four pounds we sent her to buy a sack of rice for the very poor - felt she was longing fro some money of her own to spend on the poor. She comes into touch with them doing clinic work in Haifa. We have had a talk about it in this assembly [Sydney] and are sending her some good Austarlian magazines and American ones - I am sure she will be glad of some news from her own country...
Effie remained ill throughout 1928, and caused her friends much concern. Grace Challis wished to have her in England, while Miss Storey, who presented Effie with a gramophone wished to take her to Geneva.40 In need of three months rest, Effie left Haifa for Alexandria on 6 July. Eight days later she was in Geneva, "very worn, very thin, very eager to meet the friends but too fatigued to go to them".41 She wrote to Gretta Lamprill on 8 August:
Miss Storey met me at Lausanne and as I was so ill and worn out she decided to leave me in a "rest home" there instead of taking me on to Geneva. I stayed at the rest home three weeks and last Sunday she brought me up to her little cottage. It is such a charming little home and the view from the verandah and windows are magnificent. One can see the lake, the Rhine Valley with the river flowing down it and entering the lake and surrounding all the alps. Some of the peaks eternally snow-capped and glistening in the sunshine.
We are having exceptionally hot weather they say in Switzerland, but everywhere is so delightfully green. Such a contrast to hot and arid Palestine at this time of the year, I am so thankful to escape it. The climate was telling on me a bit. I had been working without cessation for three years and the heat in Haifa is so humid and enervating. However, I hope that I will return refreshed and invigorated to carry on the work after this lovely vacation. I wish to thank you and all the good friends for their kindness in sending me the money which I shal duly receive. It has to go to Jerusalem first and will be send on to me from there. Fujita will forward the notice on to me and all I will have to do is sign it and he can get it and forward it to me. I am very grateful for it ('though I do not look for any monetary reward for my services) as I have many stamps etc to purchase. I am afraid I have been rather much to blame about the cessation of letters. I had let my correspondence slide a little but I was really not well and did not have the energy to write after my work was done, I was glad to go to bed. I've never regained my strength since I had that attack of fever just before Xmas. I am only six stone eight pounds now but hope to regain some of my lost weight during this rest. I trust that all is going on well with your group. I had a postcard from Martha forwarded on with this. She is in Brussels evidently. I expect to see quite a number of Bahá'ís in Geneva in September. I will be returning on the 29th of September and will reach Haifa on 4th October.
While in Switzerland Effie met up with Martha Root and Julia Culver, who had just returned from an Esperanto conference at Antwerp. Grace Challis arranged for her to travel to England for two weeks, where she stayed first with Miss Philipps, a woman from Adelaide with whom Sydney Bahá'í Charlotte Moffitt always stayed when in England. She then visited Claudia Stuart Coles and Grace Challis. To Claudia, Effie seemed "all spirit ...frail, but indomitable, and deeper and deeper in her faith and realisation".42 Effie Returned to Haifa 31 October.
In 1929 Mrs Rischbeith made a second visit to Haifa, at the same time as Miss A.W. Henny, an international lawyer from Holland. Ruhi Effendi, who had spent almost one year in America (1927-), was to leave with Shoghi Effendi for the continent.
Walter Guy was another of the Bahá'ís on pilgrimage in 1929. He returned to his home to pen an essay about his experiences, which concluded:
The time of departure had come. The Guardian gave me the threefold embrace and words for the friends. Faithful Fugeta holding my hand, we went together down the narrow wayt through the straight gate on Carmel's slope that leads to the Shrines which speak so eloquently of Life Eternal. We passed over barren rocks and through dark ways till we came to the Western Pilrim House, a home of sacrifice and loving service; from thence early next day to travel homeward to service and work in the vineyard of human hearts. The Pilgrimage ended and work begun.43
About the end of November 1929 Martha Root came to Haifa. She had been in Egypt, then travelled to Palestine to interview British officials and religious leaders in Jerusalem before spending a month as guest of Shoghi Effendi. On Christmas day she travelled to Damascus, before moving further east.44 Effie departed with her (it seems, for she went somewhere on 25 December, and returned to Palestine on 30 December).
During the years 1923-29 Shoghi Effendi gained control of the tomb and mansion of Bahá'u'lláh. The process of acquiring surrounding lands, commenced in 1931, took the next twenty years. In January 1930 Shoghi Effendi was extending the gardens at Bahjí and work had commenced on restoring the "palace" (as it was called at the time). The new rooms at the rear of the Shrines of the Báb and `Abdu'l-Bahá were also nearing completion, and he was also busy translating the Iqan into better English. He was better again, but according to Effie, had to be careful to not catch cold.
Dear Father & Mother,
I am mailing you today a bottle of attar of rose which Shoghi Effendi gave me to send to you. It is the very best from Persia. You should get a bottle of reclified spirit and put some in a bottle about the same size as this one and then just put a few drops of this pure essence in. It will last for along time I am still very busy doing photographs for the Bahá'í World. I took this from the top of our roof the other day. It shows the progress they are making at the Harbour works with the breakwater. I sent one enlarged copy to the Times the other day. They are asking for pictures of interest from readers. The flat roof in the foreground is the French Consulate. The house belongs to Túbá Khanum. This is the Germany Conoly portion of Haifa. The other is a view of Acca. Bahji is just beyond the clump of trees to the right of Acca. The whife cliff on the left is the boundary between Palestine and Syria. The customs gate is there and after you go round that
In 1930 New Zealand Bahá'ís Mrs Jessie and her daughter Netta Macquarie visited Haifa, and afterward wrote their experience for Herald of the South:
Surrounded by lovely shrubs, trees, flowers - very refreshing to the eye after the sunless, foggy atmosphere of London, the Pilgrim House stands as a choice scintillating gem amidst a mosaic of the rainbow. It was built in circular fashion with central hall of beautiful white marble, with inviting and comfortable bedrooms leading off, complete in every detail that a guest could possibly require, showing the loving thought, care and service which Effie Baker has given so freely.45
Corrine True once more made her pilgrimage to Haifa, arriving in March 1931 with Mrs H.A. Harding from Urbana, Illinois. For Effie, this was a chance to renew the friendship she had established with Corrine in 1927.46 Marion Jack was also in Haifa, painting a scene at Bahjí.
By 1931 Effie had served Shoghi Effendi in Haifa for five years and had proven both her abilities and her complete devotion. He so trusted her as to name her custodian of the International Archives. He had assemblied the relics and Writings of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1929, in three chambers recently added to the mausoleum. He joked one evening at dinner about the number of keys Effie now carried, as custodian of the archives and as manager of the Western pilgrim house.47 Yet in addition to these tasks, which required of Effie such sacrifice and physical commitment, Shoghi Effendi was to add a further and more lasting duty - that of recording on film the momentous landscaping and building program in which he was engaged on Mount Carmel.
Some of the first Western Bahá'ís took photographs on their pilgrimages to the holy sites in Haifa and Akka, and these appeared in the Bahá'í magazine Star of the West. These photographers included Dr Edward Getsinger, whose photos were taken in 1900, Thornton Chase, who visited in 1907, and Curtis Kelsey and Clarence L. Welsh, both of whom visited in 1921. Dr Lutfullah Hakim took photographs from about 1920. Shoghi Effendi was himself a photographer, and took the 1919 photo of the Greatest Holy Leaf included as the frontispiece of Bahá'í World vol V. According to Ruhíyyíh Khánum:
His one single personal hobby was photography; he took superlatively artistic pictures of the scenery in Switzerland and other places during those early years...
In later years Effie took the opportunity to make transparencies from Shoghi Effendi's negatives, from which she later reproduced her own prints.1 In February 1925 both Effie Baker and Margaret Stevenson took photographs during their pilgrimage, some of which were reproduced in Star of the West.2 But unlike most photographers, Effie was skilled not only in matters of light and composition, but was proficient also in the complex procedures involved in the development of negatives, and in the making of positive photographic prints. In 1926 she even coloured photos of new gardens at Bahji using water colours and brushes.3 Her photographs throughout the period 1925-36 constitute the first comprehensive and sustained photographic record of the Bahá'í holy places by any single photographer.
Effie commenced taking photos at the request of Shoghi Effendi soon after she had settled in Haifa. She was fortunate to arrive in the same year that Shoghi Effendi was making preparations for publication of the first Bahá'í Yearbook. As its name suggests, the purpose of this publication was to record Bahá'í activities from around the globe. Its second volume, for 1926-28, was called Bahá'í World, and it has appeared under this title to the present time. Effie's contributions to the inaugural volume include her own portrait with a caption noting that she had accompanied Martha Root on her recent notable lecture tour of Australia (p.128). She may have been the photographer of several views of Mt Carmel (p22, p82). A photo of Hyde and Clara Dunn with Miss Amy Stevenson of Auckland, however, was most probably taken in Auckland by another photographer (p126).
Late in 1925 Effie produced five photographs at the request of Shoghi Effendi, specifically for inclusion in the second volume of Bahá'í World. The Guardian hoped, she mentioned to the Australian Bahá'ís in a post-card, that all Bahá'ís would endeavour to obtain a copy of the first volume.4 The second volume, 1926-28, included Effie's photos of Bahjí (6, 128, 131) and 'Akká (128); the sacred tomb of the Báb and Abdu'l-Bahá and views from Mt Carmel (12, 124, 126); and the graves of Dr J.E. Esslemont and Hají Mírzá Vakílu'd-Dawlih, who was a cousin of the Báb and chief builder of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár of 'Ishqábád (123). Also included was Effie's photo of Martha Root with the Melbourne Bahá'ís, taken in 1924-25 (29).
For volumes three and four of The Bahá'í World, (1928-30 and 1930-32) Effie acted as "Palestine photographic editor". Photographs by her included in volume three included views of Haifa (112, 314), the House of Abbud in Akka (127), the mansion at Bahjí (71), inner views of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh (5, 11), the garden of Ridván on the banks of the River Belus near Akka (102), the interior of the Shrines of Abdu'l-Bahá and the Báb (22), the terraces on Mt Carmel (127, 283, 338, 352), and Abdu'l-Bahá's house at Haifa (123). Also included were several photos she had taken during her travels through Persia which were not included in The Dawnbreakers.5
Check whether Effie took the photos of Mt Carmel in Star of the West April 1925, (378) and July 1925 (520)
When first in Haifa Effie used a Kodak 1A-Autographic (Kodak junior), which used A-116 film. This was a"viewing camera" and was not the one used for reproductions. In 1928 the Candian Bahá'í Freddie Schopflocher had presented her with a PC size camera and an auto focus enlarger, with which she photographed new gardens, colouring and printing them (Schopflocher's wife Loral was also a traveller and photographer, so here was another friend who realised the importance of what Effie was doing). Schopflocher departed for the United States in January with the manuscript for the Bahá'í World, as well as numerous photographs printed for it at the request of the Guardian.
Here I am starting again. I had to stop to do something that was needed and then Shoghi Effendi wished me to print some photographs for the "year book". He sent them, and the manuscripts, by Mr Schopflocher, who left this morning. He has the whole contents sent to him and goes over it very carefully before it is given to the printer. There will be quite a number of plates I've done for him included in it this year.
In the mid 1930s Effie was capturing landscapes with a supplimentary lens, which had to be focused, but which obtained an image two and a half times the size of the fixed lens image.6
I wish to tell you a little about Haifa this afternoon. These incidents have been told me by Miss Baker who resided at the Western Pilgrim house for eleven years. To those who have embraced the Bahá'í Faith, Haifa is the most significant town in the world. For it is the pivot or centre of the activities of this Great Teaching which we instill into our breasts which will be the means of bringing the "Most Great Peace" to the world, which is at the present moment in such turmoil and strife.
Haifa has become a very important commercial town. Before the Great War it had a population of 15,000. When Miss Baker together with Mrs Blundell, her daughter and son, and Miss Margaret Stevenson from New Zealand, made the pilgrimage in 1925 the population had increased to 26,000. When Miss Baker left Haifa in 1936 there were over 75,000 inhabitants. Now the British Government has built the break-water which you can see in this photograph. It is the most important sea port for the Middle East. It also has the great pipe line which brings the crude oil for the Iraq Petroleum Companny from Mosel in Iraq - a distance of 1,800 miles. The head offices you can see in the picture marked No. 5.
You already know why it is so important to us because as I said before it is the Centre of Bahá'í activities and it is here that our beloved Guardian Shoghi Effendi resides and presides over all the phases in connection with this Great Revelation for this new age which it has ushered in.
Its supreme importance is the fact that here on the slopes of Mt Carmel lie the bodies of His Holiness the Báb (who as the fore-runner or the One who proclaimmed that the Promised One Bahá'u'lláh would appear and give the Great Teachings to establish peace and brotherhood in the world), and His Holiness `Abdu'l-Bahá. You can see the roof of the Holy Tomb where these sacred remains lie at the extreme left of the picture.
This panoramic picture was taken by Miss Baker from the slopes of Mt Carmel so you cannot see the terraces that lead up from Carmel Avenue, the long straight stree lined on both sides with olive trees. You will see the roof of a house with a cross on top of it. This was erected by a Christian Arab who was very bitter against the Bahá'í Faith. His home was situated on the right hand side of one of the Terraces leading to the Holy Tomb. He had electric lights on it and lighted them in the evening when the Holy Tomb is for one hour flood lighted by two powerful flood lights and turned into a structure of molten gold nestling amongst the beautiful trees and flowers which surround it. It was significant though that the cross (symbol of the past dispenstation) should be nestling beneath the shadow of the "Great Orb of Light" which has ushered in this new dispensation. I will give you some idea as far as I can how you approach the Holy Tomb from the home of `Abdu'l-Bahá (where Shoghi Effendi and his father and mother is, and other members of the family live), and the Western Pilgrim House in the Persian Colony. No. 1. is the Pilgrim House. No. 2. is the Old Pilgrim House where Dr. Esslemont (who wrote "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era") passed away. No. 3. is the Home of `Abdu'l-Bahá and the white rooms on the top are Shoghi Effendi's study and library and where he does all his work, and his sleeping apartment. It is almost opposite the Pilgrim House. From here, we proceed along the Persian Colony (this is the name of the Street not a real colony).
We turn to the left into a small street which has the English hospital on the right hand side of the street, St. Lukes Church of England on the left (also the Persian Women's Pilgrim House). Again you turn to the right into Mountain Road. Passing on from here on the right you pass the Iraqi Petroleum Company's Office on the left, a little further on the High School for Girls - continuing along Mountain Street we take a sharp bend and now follow the road walking toward the west. Wending or way along here we first come to the Holy Tomb (surrounded by a beautiful garden) of the Greatest Holy Leaf the revered and beloved daughter of Bahá'u'lláh and sister of `Abdu'l-Bahá. A little further on we turn to the right and following a short road come to the Men's Persian Pilgrim House. Turning once more to the left you follow the line of Cyprus trees and then enter the garden which surrounds the Holy Tomb. Follow the little path marked ?? which brings you to the entrance of the Holy Tomb.
I will now end my talk by relating this incident which Mrs Corrine True told Miss Baker during her stay at the Pilgrim House in March 1925. One of the American friendes supplied an electrical plant for a beautiful searchlight to be installed on the top of the Holy Tomb of the Báb and one also on the Holy Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji. The night they were lighted a captain bringing his ship into the anchorage at Haifa for the first time looked on his chart and found only one light charted, that of the light house on the extreme west end of Carmel. Not having another light marked he was confoused so anchored his ship out to sea for the night. Proceeding to anchorage in the early morning he at once reported the matter to the port authorities. They made enquiries and found that the light had been installed on the Holy Tomb by the electrician sent from America for the purpose and had been turned on for the first time that night. The significant part is that the Port Authorities instead of ordering the light to be dismantled marked it on the navigation chart little dreaming they had for all time established the identity of a symbol of the Great Light for this age.7
Effie sent copies of her latest prints to friends in all parts of the world. She sent to Ella Cooper in San Francisco prints of the courtyard steps of the House of Abdullah Pasha - the Master's house in Akka where he lived during his last imprisonment - which had been converted into a hospital. Mrs Cooper and her mother Mrs Goodall had visited ’Abdu'l-Bahá in this building in 1908 and had published an account of their experience under the title Daily Lessons at Akka 1908. Mrs Cooper had met visited Effie in England in 1925, must have been pleaased to learn from her all about the activities of Clara and Hyde Dunn, with whom she had much contact when they lived in California, and had corresponded in subsequent years. Others who received prints included Margaret Stevenson in Auckland, and Bahá'í friends in all parts of Australia. In addition to photographic work undertaken for publication, Effie produced photographs of new developments on Mt Carmel in the gardens at Bahjí for Shoghi Effendi to send to those who had donated the funds for this work. She also sent prints to Emogene Hoagg at the International Bureau in Geneva (an office distributing Bahá'í literature and information established in Switzerland), and to the American National Spiritual Assembly.8
In addition to taking photographs, Effie constructed for Shoghi Effendi scale models of new landscaping he was considering, to help him visualise his plan, examine it from every angle, and decide beforehand where improvements could be made.
Shoghi Effendi liked to visualize any undertaking he had in mind. He would tell me what plan or idea he had and I would construct models to scale and he would look at them from every angle and then suggest where improvement to the scheme could be made. It was always a pleasure to do things for him, as he was so appreciative of your efforts.9
Capturing the beauty of landscapes on film was an unappreciably difficult task. Effie once explained that photographing the Shrine of the Báb was made difficult by the unvarying visuual quality of the mountain background. The terraces did not show plainly, and even the stones barely contrasted with their surroundings. Effie tried panchromatic plates to get the best colour values.10 Other difficulties included the increasing rate of traffic in Haifa. Photographs of recent development of the terraces on Mt Carmel, which Shoghi Effendi asked be taken for publication in Bahá'í News, were taken before 5am, since traffic along the main avenue of the German colony soon after that time continued unabated until well after midnight.11
Less often, Effie photographed people. She was most likely the photograher of a portrait of Mountford Mills and Fujita which appeared in Bahá'í Magazine 1934, 25:1, p21. One of the most important photographs Effie took while in Haifa, that of Bahíyyih Khánum in 1931, was quite unplanned:
I was photographing the picture of His Holiness the Báb in her room and Fujita was there to assist me. I had asked Khánum two or three times if she would let me take a snap of her and as she seemed determined I did not press her. As she was sitting on the side of her bed watching me take the copy of the Báb's picture with great interest I thought I would ask her again as I had a spare plate. She said yes! After I had quickly focused the camera Fujita spoke to me and just as I snapped the bulb she said "what did you say Fujita?" and smiled, so that is how I got the photo. To me it is Khánum as I knew her. Some people say how thin and frail her hands showing the veins but I just love them for I knew the soft loving caressing touch of those lovely fingers.12
This photo of the Greatest Holy Leaf was first included in Bahá'í World 1932-34, 170. Many years later, following Effie's return to Australia, she wrote:
It was the last photo she had taken and it is just as I knew her. The frontispiece was taken by Shoghi Effendi years ago. I do not remember her like that at all. Khánum was a unique outstanding figure in the world. There was no one like her. She just surrounded everyone with love.13
The glass plate negative of this photo became one of Effie's most treasured remembrances of her years in Haifa. She kept it with her until she asked Collis Featherstone to take it with him to Haifa in November 1964, to present to the Universal House of Justice. He was most surprised to learn what was in the tin-box, and hesitated before undertaking such a delicate delivery. The glass was decades old, and he feared it might easily crack, but at Effie's insistence he delivered it to Haifa, and in due course Effie recieved from the Universal House of Justice acknowledgement of its safe arrival.
At the same time that Effie was providing such invaluable photographic work to Shoghi Effendi in Haifa, he had been requesting the Persian Bahá'ís to capture on film the many relics and sights associated with the heroic age of the Bábís.14 Not only was he concerned that many buildings were disappearing in the rush to modernise Persia's cities; he was engaged in his masterly translation of Nabil's Narrative into English. His wish was that this epic saga be published so that the Western Bahá'ís might gain an understanding of the first Bahá'í century, and he intended that a complete photographic record accompany the text he was preparing. When it was apparent that the photographs requested by the Guardian were not forthcoming, he chose to send his humble Australian maid-servant to accomplish the task. At the age of 50, Effie was offered the photographic assignment of a life-time, one for which her love of landscape, light, and chemistry, had been intuitively preparing her since her youth.
Photo of Haifa Bahá'í World 1932-34, 659.
In 1930 Shoghi Effendi asked Effie to travel to Persia to photograph places associated with early Bahá'í history. He had begun to mention his hope that a history of the origins of the Bábí and Bahá'í religions could become available to a general audience, and had commenced translating Nabil's narrative, a task that took eight months. He had been asking the Persian Bahá'ís for some time to forward to him photos of various locations, and when preparation of the photographic record proceeded too slowly, directed Effie to make a special trip to capture on film all the photographic records he wanted. Effie's main camera was No. 1 A Kodak. It was a wide angle camera, with a good quality lens, and she had already taken many superb photographs with it. Shoghi Effendi instructed her to visit the Kodak shop in Haifa and buy as many films as she could. There were a gross of films, each containing eight negatives. "Take the lot", was the Guardian's instruction. Then, when two or three days prior to departure from Haifa, the Guardian mentioned that he wished Effie to photograph "as many relics of the Báb" as possible, she realised that it was necessary to take a second camera. Her No1 A, having a wide-angle lens, was not suitable for photographing small objects, close to the lens. Her second camera, a half plate clamp camera with a triple extension for changing the focal length, required another visit to the Kodak shop for supplies. This time, there were seven dozen plates available, and once again, Effie took them all. When she arrived in Persia, she found that the government had banned all photographic goods, having labelled them as luxury items, and when she realised that she would not have been able to buy a film in the entire country, was grateful for Shoghi Effendi's foresight.
In the 1920s the Guardian had advised the Bahá'ís in the east to make special efforts to purchase all sacred sites and dwellings closely associated with the lives of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. This was a time of social upheaval in Persia. Reza Shah had come to power in 1925, and now his modernising government was intent on tearing down ancient structures in an attempt to renovate the cities.1 (In 1933 Reza Shah passed a law in parliament so that all other countries should call the country Iran and not Persia).
For the Persian Bahá'ís, it was a time of renewed persecution. In 1926 twelve Bahá'ís were martyred in the southern town of Jahrum, and there was trouble also in Adhirbáyján and Marághih. Bahá'í material was confiscated by the post-office unless it was sealed in plan envelopes. Bahá'í Schools were being closed, anti-Bahá'í demonstrations were occurring, and Bahá'ís were being excluded from public baths and barbers. On most occasions public officials were indifferent to the persecution of Bahá'ís, and those who committed criminal offences against them often went free. At the request of Shoghi Effendi the Bahá'ís in the West appealed to the Shah for an end to this trouble, and the weight of public opinion seems to have helped put an end to the worst of the excesses.
In the context of such personal danger, Effie's instructions from the Guardian were to photograph as many relics and important Bahá'í places relating to Bahá'í history that she possibly could, and to ensure that her photographic results were good before moving on.2 He provided her, in addition, with a list of places to visit in order to accomplish her task.
Shoghi Effendi gave orders I was to work under the supervision of the NSA and they were to advise the LSAs in the different villages I would have to go to. He gave me a list of names taken from the original manuscript which were of the utmost importance to obtain and said when dealing with the martyrs and places of martyrdoms I was to use my own discretion as to which were the most important to photograph. He said ‘You know there were 20,000 martyrs and each respective family will consider their martyr the most important; in that case you will be taking such photos for years’.
No doubt Shoghi Effendi selected Effie for this task because of her proven photographic skills. She was, besides, a slightly built women, able to remain inconspicuous. Other Western Bahá'í women had travelled to Iran, including Florence Schopflocher and Martha Root. But whereas Miss Root held audiences with the Minister of the Court and with Ambassadors, Effie's task was to be completed in remote villages, and circumspectly. She wrote to Emogene Hoagg:
I expect Margaret has told you I'm going to Persia. We were to have left this week but the illuminator hasn't finished all the work Shoghi Effendi gave him so we are delayed in starting for another few days. I am ever so busy cleaning things for Shoghi Effendi and getting ready to go.
In reply, Mrs Hoagg advised her to take hamam baths along the way.3 Effie wrote to Canadian Bahá'í May Maxwell on 13 July with the news:
I am going to Persia on Friday morning with some pilgrims. Shoghi Effendi wishes me to do some work there for him. I trust I shall successfully accomplish it. I may be away about three or four months. It should prove a very interesting trip as I go to many of the principal cities and towns.4
A visa for Iraq was procured in June and Effie departed the following month, her Thornton Pickard camera and other cameras and equipment securely beside her in an old canvas bag. Her own account being:
Left Haifa on Friday, 18 July, by train for Damascus, and arrived there at 8pm. I went straight to the "Hotel Victoria" and after washing and dressing for dinner, crossed over to the annex (which has a delightful roof garden) and dined. It was very pleasant taking the meal there in the cool of the evening after a hot and dusty journey in the train (which never-the-less was very interesting especially passing through the "Routenburg Hydro-electric works" which is to supply (when finished) electric power to Palestine. The harnessing of the waters of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River is one of the great engineering feats of the present day. After leaving the little village of Sam-ak, situated just on the shore of the Sea of Galilee our little train wended its way serpentine fashion, through rugged mountainous country and Nature's beauty there appealed to me very much.
Later, Effie described the first leg of her journey to friends in New Zealand:
The pastel shades of the limestone rocks and cliffs on either side of the gorge or valley through which flows the waters of the Yarouk ? to join that of the Jordan were beautiful, their fantastic shapes lending an ever-varied charm, the scene enhanced by the colourful and sweet scented blossoms of the alauders of rosey hues.5
In Damascus Effie stayed at the Hotel Victoria. At the beginning of 1930 she had stayed at the same hotel, when she had accompanied Martha Root as far as Damascus on her journey to Persia. Effie met up with Shaykh Abdul Raman, a Bahá'í from Bombay, as well as three illuminators and their wives who were to be her travelling companions. Effie and the women accompanying her visited the "Mosque Ommayud" and the Palace of Azzim, as well as the bazaars, where they saw people working at different crafts. She also befriended two Scottish women who were staying at the same hotel, and guided them to such Damascus attractions as the street called "straight", the church connected with the Edinburgh Medical Mission where Mr MacFarland conducted the service in Arabic, the house of Ananias where St Paul was let down from the upper window, as well as to the hospital, where the group had been invited to dinner with the missionaries. After taking three days to procure a car to take the group from Damascus to Baghdad, they departed at 6am the following Tuesday.
On this first leg of the journey, several cars travelled in convoy, to minimise the risk of attack from bandits. Mountford Mills, who had returned to Haifa from Baghdad shortly before Effie's departure, told how his own life was saved when he gave up the seat which had been allotted to him in beside the driver of the first vehicle to a French consul's wife, who had refused to travel in the back seat allotted to her. When raiders attacked the convoy, the woman was shot dead, the driver's ear was shot off, and the travellers' luggage was pillaged. Mills was fortunate to escape with his life, and only did so, Effie felt, because he had been a gentleman. Her convoy passed the scene of the attack, and observed the rotting remains of the suitcases and luggage.
After a few hours they were speeding over the great Syrian desert. It commenced as a series of undulating plains covered with dry grass, and gave Effie the suggestion that it would appear quite verdant in the spring, and quite unlike the descriptions she had received. The soil looked rich and fertile, if only water were available. At 5pm the travellers reached an Iraq military post, where they washed, ate, and drank tea, before continuing over the undulating plains and barren hills. After snatching a few hours sleep by the side of the road, they reached their first customs declaration depot, where the process of filling forms and receiving permission to continue took one hour.
They reached Baghdád at 10am on Wednesday 26 July. During three extremely hot days in the ancient city Effie obtained a Persian visa, received inoculations for plague and small-pox, and photographed the sights, including pontoon bridges on the Tigris. On the evening of Sunday 27 July, they departed Baghdad by train for the Iraqi border town Khaniquin, a journey of ten hours. Here more customs formalities were necessary, and when presenting her letter from the Chief Customs Inspector in Baghdad Effie found the customs officers most courteous, and their rooms neat and clean.
Trouble began on the Persian side. To Effie, the customs officers and their offices appeared unclean, and their luggage was inspected in filthy baggage rooms: the men whose duty it was to examine their belongings "hadn't seen water for some time". After much fuss, in which their belongings were strewn across the dirt floor, they were allowed to repack and leave, although they were stopped another two or three times by police officers at small military outposts along the road. The first town of any consequence was reached at noon. As this was the time that the inspector retired for his siesta, the travellers waited four and half hours in a dirty and very hot little hotel courtyard "until he had refreshed himself and got enough strength to attach the stamp" to their passports.
Effie learnt that police control over movement in and out of cities was tight. Not only were passports viewed, she reported to Shoghi Effendi, but questions were asked about the nature of the journey. Although she was not a naive person, Effie may not have known at the time the extent to which political intrigue involving the major powers and countries of the middle eastern placed her own innocent venture at peril. The middle east had been for at least the last half century a field of imperial manoeuvring, with each of the European and Arabian powers seeking economic and political advantage. Persia had been divided into Russian and British spheres of influence, and spies from many countries roamed the region gathering intelligence, disguised as archaeologists, botanists, ornithologists, poets, writers, and sundry adventurers. The efforts of English woman Gertrude Bell, in photographing people and places, making copious notes and drawings, and observing other information useful to map makers and topographers at MO4 (a British intelligence agency) and the Royal Geographic Society, were indicative of how successful a female traveller had already been.6 Copley Armory had photographed such locations as Persepolis, taken during 1927.7 Freya Stark, another British woman, maintained contact with Bahá'ís during her travels through Persia and Arabia in the early 1930s. Her book The Valley of the Assassins, after her visit to Northern Iran in 1931, mentions Dr As'ad el Hukuma, a Bahá'í, and her "most charming acquaintance in Persia".8
Local authorities would not have distinguished between the missions of Bell, Stark, or Baker; indeed, to have been in association with Bahá'ís would have imperilled the traveller as much as any other. The Bahá'ís were under attack from Shi'i clergy, their mail was being intercepted, their schools closed, anti-Bahá'í demonstrations held, and their access to public baths and barbers denied.9
Having progressed through passport control, Effie's party set out for Kirmanshah, only to face further obstacles.
Just as our car came out of the hotel courtyard a police officer signalled for the driver to stop. He made a demand, and in a few minutes a heated argument ensued between them. Next thing our driver was ordered to drive (by another officer who had come to see what the commotion was) to the Police Station. My two travelling companions got out of the car there, and joined in the parley. The two Persian ladies and myself were left sitting in the car with the sun beating merciless upon us. At last I saw a gentleman amongst the crowd (who had congregated at the Police Office door) whom I thought might be able to explain to me what the trouble was. I asked him if he would kindly inquire what was the matter. He did so, and found out that the first gendarme had stopped our driver and ordered him to take him to a village twenty-five miles distant but refused to give him any fare. We had our full complement of passengers in our party, and our driver had every right to refuse him. At once I produced my passport, and I said to the gentleman to tell them that I would go as soon as I got to Tehran and see my consul about this matter. We had hired this car for our private use. Immediately he conveyed this threat a hurried consultation took place and in a few moments we got the command "burro! burro!" (Go! Go!). Off we started, but when we entered the street leading out of the town, we found the officer who had caused all the trouble with the pole (used to bar traffic) pulled well down across the road, and he refused to lift it to allow our car to proceed. However, the other officer (or gendarme) who had ordered us to proceed to the Police Station came along and whispered in his ear. Immediately up went the pole, and he gave the command also "Burro! Burro!". When we reached the village at 5.30 pm we were stopped by a gendarme, and told we could not proceed any further. We were just settling down to our inevitable fate, when a car arrived with the source of our annoyance about it. He had a few words with his comrade in arms, and presently we got the command once more, Burro!
With this episode complete, the travellers reached Krend, the last Persian village at which Bahá'u'lláh stayed during his travel from Tehran to Baghdad, parked at an "open air cafe" where they ordered rice and Persian dishes, and slept on rush mats beneath the open sky. Rising at dawn, they reached Kirmanshah in time for breakfast. Here the Bahá'ís treated the travellers lavishly for two days. Effie admired the mud-brick buildings. Wealthier residences had courtyards with ponds of water (hoaz), trees and flowers, in which families took their meals and slept at night during the summer. The circuitous journey from Kirmanshah to Hamadan across endless barren and rugged peaked hills and through deep valleys took one day, and included five punctures. Finally, the city at the foot of Mt Elvend was reached, and a delightful day was spent six miles distant, at the summer camp of one of the Hamadan Bahá'ís. Effie visited the Tomb of Queen Esther. A pure mountain stream gurgled and rushed passed nearby and great poplars, elms and basket-willows gave delightful shade. On Sunday, 3 August, the travellers drove through rich agricultural land, covered with golden grain ready for harvesting, toward Qazvín. Lunch and a hot bath were taken at a way-side hotel located over a hot natural spring.
Tehran was reached at 11.30 pm. on Tuesday 5 August, and as a special guest of the Persian National Assembly, Effie was lodged at the Grand Hotel, the city's finest. Two weeks were spent in capital, while Muhammad Labib, chosen by the National Assembly to accompany Effie as translator and photographic assistant, arrived from Kirmanshah. His family had been forced from their home town of Yazd in 1905 by persecution, and Labib had met Abdu'l-Bahá in 1919 when he undertook a pilgrimage with his father. Now aged about 37, Labib was a keen photographer and Esperantist, ideally suited to assist Effie in her important assignment.10 Effie came to regard Labib as something of a "rascal", although she did not question that he was a steadfast Bahá'í.11
The National Assembly arranged a special dinner for over one hundred "notables of the city", prompting Effie to write "I have been feted everywhere". Dr Lotfu'lláh Hakim took her to see the remarkable doctor and educator, Susan Moody. Dr Moody had arrived in Tehran in 1909 at the express wish of `Abdu'l-Bahá, for the purpose of improving women's health. In time she became aware of the need for women's education in Iran, and was instrumental in establishing the Tarbiyat School, one of the first schools for girls to be established in the country.12 In 1924, in the midst of considerable unrest in Tehran, she had been forced to return to the United States. A year later, however, she had returned, accompanied by Miss Adelaide Sharpe. She was now eighty years old, and quite frail.
Adelaide Sharpe, together with Ruhangiz Khánum Fath-A'zam, a teacher at the Tarbíyat School, visited Effie at her hotel.13 Effie liked Tehran. There was much alteration going on, especially widening of streets to allow for increased volume of traffic. The water supply continued to flow along open channels in the streets. Photographic work commenced on the 18th, when Adelaide Sharp, Ruhangiz and her brother drove Effie to Shimíran, a suburb of Tehran at the foot of the Alzburg mountains, into a delightful small gorge where she photographed Bahá'u'lláh's mountain home. It now belonged to Tehran's chief of police, whose Turkish wife gave Effie complete cooperation in her work.
Leaving Tehran through the "Gate of Nour" on 18 August proved just as difficult as the previous exit from a town on the border. While Labeeb presented the necessary passports and police permits, a gendarme approached Effie seated in the car, demanding to see her passport:
I handed my Australian one to him. After inspecting it upside down for a few moments he questioned me thus: "Where come from?". I said "Australia". "Where Australia?" I said about four thousand farsacks (I think a farsack is about two and a half or three and half miles). Putting his considering cap on once again he said: "Who belong?" I said "Australia belongs to King George of England." Then he said "What subject?". I told him I was British subject. Evidently he was quite satisfied with my explicit explanations, or possibly he had exhausted his English vocabulary, for returning my passport (still upside down) he gave the command "Burro!".
Travel into the provinces was a dangerous prospect for Effie on three grounds: she was European, she was female, and a Bahá'í. In the late 1920s Bahá'ís were being prohibited from using public baths and barbers, were subject to anti-Bahá'í demonstrations, and had their schools closed down. As recently as 1926 a Bahá'í had been martyred in Jahrum, and others had been violently persecuted in the town of Maraghih, in Adhirbayjan Province. Bahá'í communities in Western countries had sent telegrams of protest to the new ruler, Reza Shah. There was chronic instability throughout the land, and many officials allowed criminals to go free: to the government, persecution of Bahá'ís was just one part of the general turmoil of the period.
Passing through barren and hilly country which gradually came to wind around rock scarred and rugged peaks, Effie and Labib headed for Sárí. After dining on abgoosh (hot soup) at a way-side cafe, the owner ordered that the bowl Effie had eaten from be scoured with hot war and sand, because it had been defiled by a Christian, an action containing forethought, she suggested, as "the next traveller would get a much cleaner bowl" than she did! Closer to Sárí, the landscape became wooded, and hills were clad in verdant green. After passing Darvand, Persia's highest peak, they reached Sárí at noon on 19 August. The following day the town's Local Spiritual Assembly consulted with Effie on the photos to be taken in the region. In the town itself Effie photographed the house of Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí, the Mujtahid (350). The National Assembly had instructed that a local photographer, rather than Effie, take the photos required at Tákur, considering the journey there, in the absence of roads, as being too difficult for her. But when Effie saw a sample of the intended photographer's work, she urged the Local Assembly to let her proceed, and horses were procured to carry Effie, Labib, local guide Aziz, photographic equipment and the stretcher-bed provided by the National Assembly, on a three day journey.
Effie realised the importance of checking the results of her work before leaving an area. Once gone, she would never have the opportunity to return, so she made sure to develop her negatives, and make some positive prints before departing. Developing photographic film in remote villages, however, without the facilities which would usually have been regarded as essential, tested Effie's skills as a photographer to the utmost. In place of fresh running water, she used water retrieved by bucket from village wells, and simulated "dark room" conditions by placing a blanket on the outside of the tent in which she was working, and taping red paper over her torch. As always, this work had to be accomplished in virtual secrecy, lest a policeman become suspicious and arrest Effie as a spy.
The way was rough and difficult, with streams being crossed and recrossed many times. Toward dusk, Effie's horse stumbled, and she fell forward, landing hard on her shoulder. There was no choice to continue until a cafe was reached at 10.30pm where the party camped in the open. Thoughtfully, the Persian National Assembly had provided Effie with a stretcher, as they knew that she was not accustomed to sleeping on a carpet placed over a mud divan, as was the Persian custom:
My stretcher was erected for me just outside the cafe door. My companions spreading their rugs on earth benches nearby went to sleep very soon. There were many horses about and their drivers (putting up at the cafe at night) continually kept shouting as they unloaded the heavy packs from the backs of their weary beasts, so I did not sleep very much, besides my shoulder was now very stiff and painful. If I had ever realised what a difficult ride it would be I'd never have gone but I'm glad that I've had the wonderful experience. I've really qualified to do a movie thrill any time now.
Rising at 6am, the trio wended their way through rice fields and crossed irrigation channels, rested at Amul at noon for two hours, and continued their journey until 7pm. The following morning they were advised that "the mountain" was a superior route to Tákur than "the river", and so commenced a perilous climb that was to last until midnight:
We could not see a yard before us and the path was only wide enough for our horses to tread single-file. All we could do was to give our faithful steeds their heads and sit tight in our saddles, so with their noses nearly touching the ground and at times with their four feet together they would slide six or seven feet down the mountain-side. The stones loosened by their feet would go hurtling down to the valley below, warning us a false step meant certain death. It was an anxious time for all of us, including our drivers for the road was new to them.
On the third day, at noon on 24 August, they reached the home of Mirza Fazollah, a nephew of Bahá'u'lláh, who extended a loving welcome, and fresh fruit and tea, followed by a hot bath - although the latter caused some curiosity among her hostesses:
They asked me what would I like. I said I would like to have a bath if I could. I waited and after two hours they came and said the hamam was ready. I got my clothing from the suitcase and they directed me to the bathroom or so I thought, but it was a large room and all around the walls were the women of the village with the chuddors held up to their noses with their black eyes peering at me ...they had a big brass type of thing with jugs of hot and cold water. They had gone around the village and collected all the ladies to come and see the English lady have her bath. I wasn't sport enough and told them I like my bath in private.14
Plans were made to commence work the following day. Effie captured on film general views of Tákur (638); the ruins of Bahá'u'lláh's original home (110, 115, 640), which was within a few years of her visit fully restored; an inscription placed by the Vazír, Mírzá Buzurg, above the door (112) On the 27th, they set out for Dhakala, a village in which Bahá'u'lláh spent three months when on his way to Amul. In Dhakala Bahá'u'lláh had been bastinadoed, and his friends had made a hole in a wall in order to free him. Situated on a plain, the village was reached after a day long and perilous descent through a "fairland" of poplars, elms, walnut, plum and pomegranate trees. In the next week, Effie photographed at Dhakala, Amul (general views, the home of the governor 370, 370, and views of the Masjid of Amul, 373); Bárfurúsh (views of the Madrisih of Mirza Zaki, the resting place of Quddus 412, the house of the Sa'ídu'l-Ulamá', 334, and the house of Quddus' father, 182)), and Khafagarkolah, as well as at villages in between.
At Amul, some recent photographs, including ones depicting the houses in which Bahá'u'lláh's mother and wife were born, were nearly lost when Labib poured a bucket of stream water onto the negatives. Because the water was not sufficiently cool the negatives were beginning to "melt" and Effie, who happened to pass by to see how the developing was going, quickly threw into the bucket some alum, a photographic material which stabilised the process.
Some three or four women were among the party of twelve who accompanied her on "splendid mounts" on a day-long journey from Khafagarkolah to Fort Tabarsí, where Effie photographed the Shrine of Shaykh Tabarsí (343, 345), and the fort surrounding it (344). The following day, Effie moved on to Mafroosak, and then by car to Sárí, and to Tehran, arriving through the Shimran gate on 6 September. This first journey from Tehran had taken Effie through what she regarded as the most beautiful scenery in Persia, and to remote villages that claimed her as their first European visitor.
In the capital, Effie met with the Women's Progress Society, dined with Adelaide Sharp and Ruhengiz Khánum, and visited the Girl's School, photographed a ring (503) that had belonged to the Báb in the possession of Mirza Muhammad Afnan, and visited Dr Moody. If there was one source of tension between Effie, a Westerner, and her Persian hosts, it concerned punctuality. Whereas Effie sought to maintain a tight schedule, her companions were invariably much more casual in preparing for departure. "I had an awful job to move them along to get the pictures", she later explained to Collis and Madge Featherstone.15
Following consultation the National Assembly decided Effie's second trip would be to Tabriz (the capital city of Adharbayjan), and the towns en route. She left on 10 September, with car and driver. Passing through dry and barren country Qazvín was reached at 2pm. It took just one hour to photograph houses in which Táhirih had lived (274, 275). Having arrived at Zanjan at 9pm they departed at 4am on the 11th for Tabriz, a 13 hour journey through more hilly, barren and mountainous country. Some Tabrizi Bahá'ís greeted Effie before the town was reached. She stayed as guest of Mirza Muhammad Aki Khan Dadkhak. In Tabriz Effie met the chief of police:
Sunday morning I met the Chief of Police, and he invited me to visit him at his office in the square where the Báb was shot. Saw the spot where he was killed. Most of the buildings have been raised to the ground (for more modern ones to be erected) except for the portion where they suspended and shot him. This had been retained for a temporary prison kitchen until the more modern one was finished.
Photos of the Barrack-Square in which the Báb was suspended and shot appear in Dawnbreakers (511), and in Bahá'í World 1928-30, p67.
Effie photographed the Namáz-Khánih of Shaykhu'l-Islám, where the Báb was bastinadoed (318), the ruins of the House of Mullá Muhammad-i-Mámáqání, the Mujtahid of Tabriz (509) and wider views of the city (237). The prison warden was friendly to the Bahá'ís, and allowed Effie access to photograph the prison:
He was very lenient to the Bahá'ís, but he couldn't join because it meant his job. He said he could help the Bahá'ís more by giving help silently in different ways. He invited me to visit him and asked me to bring one of the old believers who knew all about it and he would let him take me round and point out all the various places and I could photograph them. but keep my camera camouflaged as much as I could, but he wouldn't go round with me. In that prison he had taken one of the rooms and done it up as a little sanctuary in which the prisoners could go in one hour a day and pray.16
All that was left of the Tabriz prison was the wall from which the Báb had been suspended for execution, which had been retained as a temporary kitchen. The remainder had been razed, as the prison was being renovated. The fanaticism encountered in Tabriz made it difficult to take some photos, and tribal warfare prevented her going to Maku. Effie knew that she was fortunate to photograph the site before its total obliteration, and took some stone and debris from the prison back to the Guardian.
From Tabriz Effie visited Meelan, the roughest car ride she ever experienced, as the "fine driver" car negotiated the car over boulders on a three and half hour journey, which took longer on the return, as night was falling, and it was hard to see the way. One of the Bahá'ís Effie met in Tabriz was Ali Furutan, who later recounted:
At that time I was visiting the province on a teaching trip under the auspices of the National Assembly of Iran. In addition to meeting her on several different occasions in the Bahá'í gatherings, I was asked by the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tabriz to accompany her as an interpreter on a trip to Saysán. In those days Saysán was one of the most important Bahá'í centres of the entire province. Effie's purpose for that trip was to meet the friends, and to take pictures of the family and relations of Mr Yadulláh Tabrízí, who was at that time residing in Haifa with his mother. Effie had promised them to take pictures of their family to carry back as gifts on her return to the Holy Land.
After visiting Saysán, we returned to Tabríz and she continued visiting other cities of Adharbáyján, taking pictures of the historical places and sites in that area.17
It was a wonderful experience. Many came running over the ploughed ground to meet me, where our car had stopped on the main road to repair a puncture. We went a farsack from the main road to the village over the road the believers cleared for Martha Root's car. This road wasn't anything like the four farsacks traversed by my car to Meelan. I don't think anyone could experience a rougher ride than that. The only place they had to make it accessible to the village was on the river-bed, where they removed some boulders to make an easier track for the car. The rest was a beaten car track to the village. Our car was just mobbed by the crowd and I shook hands till my arm was tired. I had never grasped so many hands in my life in one day.
The group left Tabriz on 19 September and travelled all day, reaching Zanjan at 11pm, where she took the required photographs by 10am the following morning. These included general views of the town (527), of the ruined house of Hujjat (528, 571) and the square in which his body was left exposed for three days (578), of the graves of Ashraf and his mother (562), and the caravanserai of Mírzá Ma'Súm-i-Tabíb, where the Báb had lodged (535). They departed for Qazvin and Tehran on 20 September.
Once more in Tehran, Effie consulted immediately with the National Assembly, and departed for the third time for Meshed, on Monday 22 September. The journey over 500 miles was three days by car, the longest ride to date. The first night was spent at Feerooskov. The following day they lunched at Damghan, then Shahrud, a fruit growing centre, irrigated, at the foot of mountains, and stayed the second night at Míyamay, where Effie photographed the Masjid where Mullá Husayn and his companions prayed (326).
Mashhad, situated on a plane, was reached after travelling through hilly mountainous country. The first glimpse of the city showed it as a thin long line across the face of the plane on which it is situated. The golden dome and minarets of the Mosque of the eighth Imam, Imam Reza, were prominent. The approach to the city was crowded with pilgrims, many on foot, others on camels or donkeys, making their pilgrimage to the Mosque. Also passed were the monuments hastily erected for pilgrims who died along the way.
Although "infidels" were not allowed to enter the mosque, Effie donned a chudor, and risked her safety to gain a look at the interior:
I dressed up as a Muslim woman and paid a visit to the Great Mosque. I followed my two girl guides and just did as they did and no-one suspected that I was European. Of course I kept my face well covered. You never saw such a crowd or heard such a babble as in the central room where the tomb or shrine of the Imam is. The great domed roof is studded with precious gems and the whole of the walls are wonderfully decorated with little pieces of glass mirror. It was a dazzling sight. Persia is noted for this work. I could not have as good a look as I wished because I had to keep the stiff veil part they wear well over my face for fear of being identified. These people are ignorant and fanatical and if they had ever suspected me they would have torn me to pieces and not think twice about it. It was a great experience and I quite enjoyed it but I must say I breathed a sigh of relief when I got out into the street once more and in a carriage back to the friends homes who took me. I couldn't take the photos but I got my interpreter to go and take a few snaps. He didn't get the best results but it will give you some idea of the place.
Later, concerning the same event, Effie elaborated on this thrilling adventure:
I went into it dressed as a Persian lady, the girls told me not to speak, if they had known they would have killed me, being a foreigner. I went right up to the tomb of the Imam Reza and they got the Mufti to chant prayers. The two Persian girls who took me in gave them some tumans to chant a prayer, and that was much more than what the general poor could give. All the pilgrims were down on their praying mats in the room where the tomb was. One of these muftis made a pathway so that we could go up and just put our finger on the tomb of the Imam. This was a great privilege. I had carefully looked up to see the golden roof studded with jems. The whole sides were mirrors...I couldn't photograph in there but in the courtyard one of the muftis gave Labib permits to photograph and he said could I send him some pictures and I promised him and as soon as I got to Tehran I printed all the pictures I took and posted them to him, and he wrote a letter back saying he had had many promised from Europeans to send pictures, and he was very pleased to find that I was a Bahá'í and that I had kept my promise.
I went into the court-yard and there was the mufti up there with the Koran, and I don't know the words, but I learnt the tune of the chant...all these people would bow down on their knees and I nearly stumbled over some prostrate figures, but it was a body, not only one but dozens of them, bodies brought in to be blessed, rapped in sack-cloth and lying on the ground. They had died on the way, and that is why Bahá'u'lláh brought in the law of one hour, because some of them had travelled for six months, with rotting bodies. All along the road we could see the graves where they had put a stone up ..I was very careful when I went in, but I nearly stumbled over this one, I didn't see it.
The girls were anxious to get me out and then they showed me a sign that said "any foreigner entering this mosque does so at their own risk"...18
In Mashhad Effie photographed the interior and exterior of the "Bábiyyih" (127), and the Mosque of Gawhar-Shád, where Mullá Husayn preached. She then visited Sabsuvah, Míyamay, Badasht (292) and Shahrud (291), where they found the tree under which Mulla Husayn and his followers camped. Tehran was once more gained, on 1 October, after passing through Semnan, and Feerooskooh. During a week of rest in the capital, Effie made two prints of the photos she had taken so far. One set she posted to Shoghi Effendi, the other she left with the National Assembly, in case the postal authorities inspected the packets posted to Haifa and confiscated them.19
Effie's fourth trip was to Isfáhán (199). She left Tehran on 8 October, taking the next five days to travel three-quarters of the distance, owing to repeated punctures and the eventual lack of "sticky-glue and patches" which left them stranded until a passing motorist came to their aid:
It was a privately hired car. The spare tyre and tube it carried was too large for our "little tin Lizzy (Ford)". The gentleman (a Scotsman) offered to take me into Isfahan with my small luggage, which I accepted as I was tired of travelling all night (except for the intervals spent in puncture mending) on a not too comfortable seat, the springs being somewhat out of order. I found my benefactor had visited my homeland many times, and he knew quite a number of people I did, personally and by name. We had quite a pleasant talk on the journey at "Hotel Amerique" at 4pm, 9th October.
The Hazirat'l-Quds was on the outskirts of the city, and Effie was taken there by Lieutenant Sohrab. The street facing her hotel was lined with beautiful trees and flower beds, but she found the streets off the main avenue covered in a fine dust which penetrated the clothing and required constant brushing off. In Isfáhán Effie took photographs of the Maydani-shah, the homes of the "Beloved of Martyrs" and the "King of Martyrs"; the ruins of the prison where they were incarcerated and killed, and where their bodies were thrown into the square, and the pool and the stone in it, on which their bodies were placed and washed for burial; the house of the 'Imárat-i-Khurshíd, a ruin in which the Báb once stayed (210), the governor who kept the Báb and protected him in his home; the place known as the "forty pillars" where the mullahs met in conclave to discuss ways and means of condemning and killing the Báb; the Masjidi Shah, House of Vizier Mirza Assodallah, where the Báb's body was kept; Masjid-i-Jum'ih where he prayed (203); and a school, the Madrisih Ním-Avard (95). Also 200, 206)
A short distance from Isfáhán Effie photographed the Masjid (mosque) where Jenabi Zain prayed, and the graves of martyrs. It was not safe for her to attempt taking photos of Imam Gomeh's house and the home of "the son of the wolf", so Labib obtained permission from Mr Afnan to take these for her. The grandson of "the son of the wolf" was very cordial and showed Labib the room in which his grandfather signed many death warrants of Bábís.
On 14 October Effie and Labib left by postal van for Shiraz. They dined with the Bahá'ís at Abádih (644) in the home of Mirza Ghorban. Driving most of the night, they arrived at Shíráz at 3.30pm the following day, and remained for five days. For half an hour Effie photographed the ruins at Persepolis. (compare Amory Copley Persian Days, 1928)
Effie photographed general views of the city (52,71, 86), including the school attended by the Báb (73), the mosque in which the Báb met Mulla Husayn (51, 53) and where the Báb addressed the congregation (152) and the graves of his wife and infant son (74). Hospitality was provided at the home of Mirza Muhammad Dehkan.
In Shíráz Effie was to photograph the house of the Bab, and the relics now in the possession of the Afnán family residing next to the House of the Bab. She presented to members of the Afnan family a letter from Shoghi Effendi, which explained her mission on his behalf. But gaining access to relics of the Báb in the possession of four Afnan brothers proved difficult, and required all of Effie's tact, diplomacy, and practicality. She later recalled her predicament, and her strategy:
There were four brothers, three departed to their farms and villages outside Shiraz and they were gone and I could get only two or three relics, they guarded them very carefully, and I didn't know what to do about it, I thought there would be more. I got a piece of paper and wrote down the relics I knew about, and I went to the Afnan and said "could you please write down any other relics that you know of that I could photograph, and please sign your name, because I want to take this paper back to Shoghi Effendi and show him that what I have photographed is authentic because he wants to place these pictures in the archives at the Holy Tomb". He evidently sent for his other brothers because by the time I finished photographing in Shiraz I had about 19 pictures of different things, they came one after the other. The Afnan family were the custodians of the house of the Báb and lived in the next courtyard.20
Effie photographed such relics of the Báb in the possession of his descendants as his brazier and samovar (55,) clothing (133, 134, 135), signet ring (503) as well as photographing his home (56, 54, 58, 60, 64). She photographed the room in which the Báb entertained Mulla Husayn, and offered prayers there. She also photographed the home of the Báb's uncle, Hájí Mírzá 'Alí (192,193), and the Masjid-i-Naw (144). Once more, warfare prevented her travelling to Nayríz, so Labib ventured there on her behalf to photograph Vahíd's House (479), the Fort of Khajih (480), the Masjid-i-Jámí (492), the sites of martyrdoms and graves at Nayríz, including that of Vahíd (497, 498, 645, 478). On November 3 they returned to Isfáhán.
Finding that no postal van left for Yazd for several days, Effie and Labib negotiated to travel in a lorry which was leaving immediately, and spent two full days travelling over an uninteresting and tiring desert plain. Once more the photographic tasks were divided, and Labib departed on a dangerous three day assignment while Effie sought out Vahíd's House in Yazd (462, 466), and the Fort of Nárín (470). The return to Isfáhán was dangerous enough, for the driver once more ran out of patches to repair punctured tyres. Worse still, they were forced to spend a chilly night in the open when the radiator went dry:
It was bitterly cold and a hard white frost everywhere. My feet were numb and painful with the cold and I walked up and down the road to try and keep warm. Just before dawn I heard dogs barking, and that indicated we were not far from a village. When day broke we discovered another quarter of a mile on the journey the night before, we would have reached there, water would have been procured for our machine to proceed or else we could have taken shelter in its cafe (such as it was). Two of the passengers and a boy (the chauffer's handy man) took tins and brought water, so at 6.30am we were on our way again. You can imagine how cold it was for when the garage was reached at 8am the water that had leaked out of the tins on the journey from the village was frozen on the side of the lorry.
It was time to file a report to Shoghi Effendi. Effie wrote:
Labeeb Effendi who is accompanying me has gone to some of the villages on a donkey, it being impossible to go by car. He left Tuesday morning from the village of Taft where we motored to and I did the photographing there today. I am very anxious, for Persians time is no object and I don't like him to get out of my sight. I continually keep urging matters on, I really think he is heartily sick of me always asking and asking to do things quickly but if I didn't I wouldn't be in Haifa until next fall, I'm sure... The cities are built so badly, twisty lands and many of the places in my list are so hemmed in it is very difficult to obtain a view, also the fanaticism and hostility of the people has to be contended with. So far we have been able to record nearly all the pictures desired. At Shiraz there are one or two mentioned that it was not possible to take owing to the warfare that has been taking place recently between the government and various tribes in the surrounding districts... It was good foresight on your part to send me with the necessary material. All photographic goods are now banned in Persia and they are almost unprocurable. The little stocks the dealers hold they are asking exorbitant prices for. The plates for my camera are not to be procured, and the number of my films...are not in stock very much.21
On November 29 Effie returned to Tehran, having completed her work in all the cities and villages in the provinces, and had only to work in the capital. She remained another two months, photographing the cities important mosques and city gates (438, 440, 442, 443, 457, 520), the house of the Kalantar where Tahirih was confined (623). Although she felt she hurried her assistants as much as was possible, doubted she would have gotten away at all, had not Shoghi Effendi sent word that he wished her to return as soon as possible, as he had nearly completed the manuscript with the assistance of Emogene Hoagg, and that he wished to send it soon to America for publication.
It was snowing when Effie left Tehran at the end of January, and she travelled for eight days over snow-clad mountains. After leaving Kirmanshah they were caught in a blizzard, which almost froze the car into the road, and required that the passengers assist by pushing it for an hour until the peak of a ridge was gained. Eventually, a police-outpost was reached, where the gendarmes cheerfully built up a fire and made the travellers comfortable. Effie took the opportunity to heat a roast chicken and pillau provided by the Kirmanshah Bahá'ís as a parting gift:
In the morning we found the snow had beaten into the car and it was a frozen block. They had to cut it out with a hatchet. The driver boiled water and poured it over the radiator to thaw it out. I never saw a car treated so, in my life. It was a wonder it ever went again. By noon it showed some sign of moving off and we went ploughing through the snow, but we did not get very far before our bus halted. What with the handy boy cranking every few minutes and the two men passengers getting out and pushing me we reached the next village, Karind.
At Karind, the official at the post office was a Bahá'í, and did what he could to make comfortable while she took photos of this village where Bahá'u'lláh had stayed on his way to Baghdad. It was necessary to remain for two days while snow was shovelled from the road. On reaching the border town of Khanniquin, Effie caught the train to Baghdad. To her delight, the Baghdad Bahá'ís had obtained the photos required by the Guardian of Bahá'u'lláh's house there (649, 622), making it unnecessary for her to prolong her stay, and she departed next morning. The photos acquired by the Baghdad Bahá'ís may have included one of the Takyiy-I-Mawláná Khálid in Sulaymáníyyih, where Bahá'u'lláh stayed during his retirement. This was not included in The Dawnbreakers but appeared in Bahá'í World 1932-34 (19). Leaving Persia, however, proved as difficult as entering it, and Effie was required one final time to negotiate with officialdom, on this occasion French. Only many years afterwards did Effie put the story on paper. She wrote to a friend in March 1955:
Of the 1000 odd photos I obtained I made three copies of each. One set was left in custody of the NSA, one set posted to Shoghi Effendi, and one set posted to Fujita (living at the Pilgrim House).. That was to ensure that if the negatives were confiscated there were other prints. However! I had no trouble from the Customs, put my negatives in boxes in my suitcases, and gave the examiner the keys to look through my belongings. He just asked me what they were and I said they were photographs I had taken for private, not commercial, use. He made no comment, just closed my boxes and put the customs seal on them. One of the officers in the Customs was a Bahá'í, and he advised me to bring my cases to the head office and get them sealed there. All I had to do then was to show the customs clearance at the border towns. This I did. My cases were brought in before him. He asked me for my keys then called in an examiner (not a Bahá'í) and told him to look through my boxes and assess anything dutiable and make the account to me. This he did. The duty was mostly on articles I was carrying as gifts for Shoghi Effendi from friends, and this I paid (using cash provided by the National Assembly). The lead seals were attached to the locks of my case and the clearance papers handed to me. I had no trouble whatever at the border town , just produced my clearance papers and stepped into Iraq. I had no trouble with the customs there either, the Arab officers were delightful people.
But on reaching Syria my troubles started with the French gendarmes who would not accept my papers, although I was cleared all the way to Haifa, or at least the Palestine border. They tore off the seals, confiscated my luggage, and sent it off to the Customs House at Damascus. When I reached there I went to my Hotel, had some breakfast, and then took a garry, and off to the Customs house I went. When I arrived I found my cases had been opened, and the three officers who had taken them enjoyed themselves laughing at me. They presented me with a long list of dutiable goods within the duty assessed. I told them I would not pay it and wished to see the head officer. They pretended they didn’t understand. However! An Arab gentleman happened to come in, and seeking I was in difficulties asked me if he could be of service. I told him I wished to speak to the head officer, and he said ‘Come with me. I’m going to see him myself’. So off I went and told the officer what had happened, and showed him my clearance papers. I said ‘If I have to pay duty here I am quite willing to, but first of all I’m going to see the British Consul here, as I am a British subject". My, that did the trick! He said ‘Please don’t do that, everything is in order, you may go free’, and he ordered the gendarmes to re-pack my case. I was adamant that I’d report the incident to the British Consul so that other British subjects would not suffer the indignities I had. He again begged me not to do so, and himself saw me out to my garry. Of course I had no real intention of doing so. When my car reached the barrier pole on the Palestine border the control officers peered in and quickly gave the order for me to pass through. They had evidently phoned so say that I should not be hindered in any way.
I reached the Palestine customs safely and had the full list of the contents of my cases which I had written out at the Hotel before I went to the French Custom House and presented it to them telling them the trouble I had had. Looking over the list they saw four bottles of attar of rose. Asking me why I had them, I said that they were a gift to Shoghi Effendi from the Persian Bahá'ís. They said "Ah! That is for Abbas Effendi’s Tomb and not for commercial purposes so that’s alright". They passed my cases and gave me a cup of nice hot coffee...
On 27 January 1931 Effie thus entered Palestine and continued her journey home, through Tiberias, Cana, Nazareth and other villages, to Haifa:
I reached Haifa at 10.30pm and it was good to see Fujita's smiling face, and receive Emogene Hoagg's cheery welcome. Miss Louise Drake Wright arrived at 10am next morning, and the day following Miss Storey and two friends, so I went straight into harness at once, and in less than a fortnight we had thirteen guests, Mrs Esty, her son, aunt and cousin being amongst them.
Shoghi Effendi was very pleased with the results of my trip and satisfied with the photographs I had obtained. He asked Mrs Hoagg and myself to help him pick out the most suitable pictures to illustrate the "Dawn Breakers" and I then printed them to be forwarded to the publishers. In my travels to secure them I had covered about ten thousand miles altogether. I was six months away instead of three as arranged. There were many unforseen difficulties to overcome. I only wish I could again undertake the work with the experience I have now at hand. It certainly was a wonderful trip, but a very strenuous and anxious one.
Effie had taken over a thousand photographs, sometimes using five or six aperture settings at each site, in order to ensure that one among them would be of the right exposure. Her technical proficiency in developing her films during the journey, under the most disadvantageous conditions, was remarkable. Using water drawn by buckets from nearby wells, Effie prepared her photographic solutions at night in her tent, aided by the light of a torch muffled by red paper. In Haifa, she selected approximately 400 photographs from the one thousand, for use by Shoghi Effendi. These she numbered, and listed in a book. Photos relating to Bahá'u'lláh were given red markers, those relating to the Báb green, and those relating to Abdu'l-Bahá, blue.22
The Guardian forwarded his completed manuscript to the North American National Assembly early in 1931. To offset the initial printing cost of US $8,000, he had agreed to sign a limited edition of 150, to be sold at a higher cost. The standard United States edition sold for $7.50 and the numbered edition for $35.00. Each individual Bahá'í in North America, and all Local Assembly librarians were offered advance subscription orders, and the first edition of the Dawnbreakers went to press in February 1932. The Guardian sent two cables to the Bahá'í world pointing out the significance he placed on becoming familiar with its contents. The first cable, sent 2 November 1931, read:
URGE ALL ENGLISH SPEAKING BELIEVERS CONCENTRATE STUDY NABILS NARRATIVE AS ESSENTIAL PRELIMINARY TO RENEWED INTENSIVE TEACHING CAMPAIGN NECESSITATED BY COMPLETION MASHRIQULADHKAR STRONGLY FEEL WIDESPREAD USE OF ITS VARIED RICH AND AUTHENTIC MATERIAL CONSTITUTES MOST EFFECTIVE WEAPON TO MEET CHALLENGE OF A CRITICAL HOUR UNHESITATINGLY RECOMMEND TO EVERY PROSPECTIVE VISITOR OF BAHAULLAHS NATIVE LAND
The second cable, sent 21 June 1932, read:
FEEL IMPELLED APPEAL ENTIRE BODY AMERICAN BELIEVERS HENCEFORTH REGARD NABILS NARRATIVE AS ESSENTIAL ADJUNCT TO RECONSTRUCTED TEACHING PROGRAM AS UNCHALLENGEABLE TEXTBOOK IN THEIR SUMMER SCHOOLS AS SOURCE OF INSPIRATION IN ALL LITERARY ARTISTIC PURSUITS AS AN INVALUABLE COMPANION IN TIMES OF LEISURE AS INDISPENSABLE PRELIMINARY TO FUTURE PILGRIMAGE BAHAULLAHS NATIVE LAND AND AS UNFAILING INSTRUMENT IN ALLY DISTRESS AND RESIST ATTACKS OF CRITICAL DISILLUSIONED HUMANITY
By early in 1935 some 1302 copies of the first edition of 2,000 copies, as well as 127 of the numbered edition of 300 signed copies, had been sold. Ruhíyyíh Khánum later put this enterprise into perspective:
It took Shoghi Effendi almost two years of research, compilation and translation to complete this remarkable volume. In the course of 1930 he sent an Australian Bahá'í photographer to Persia to painstakingly retrace the footsteps of the Báb in His native land, the scenes of His and His followers' martyrdoms and many historic sites. Had Shoghi Effendi not done this all visual trace of many of these places in more or less their original state would have been lost forever.
Effie thought of writing the diary of her adventures in Persia into a fuller account but for a number of reasons refrained from doing so. For one thing, the demands of daily service at the pilgrim house, in addition to the tasks involved in processing the photographs for The Dawnbreakers and news of the imminent arrival of pilgrims, relegated the idea behind more immediate concerns. Furthermore, she continued to feel that no account was either timely, or required. As she explained in a letter to a friend almost two decades later:
Regarding the writing of my experiences during my photographic trip I refrained from doing so because that trip and the work accomplished was a special mission entrusted to me by Shoghi Effendi. At the time the work had to be done very quietly and secretly, for fear of antagonising the authorities and maybe make hardships for the friends. ..I was instructed by the NSA not to mention my mission when visiting the ladies meetings for fear they may talk about it and probably the authorities would get to hear about it. At the time there was a wave of anti-foreign feeling especially against Americans. Before I left Persia, orders had been given to the Americans to hand over their schools to the Government and leave the country, so you see that is why I never allowed anything about my trip to be publicised. I felt it was truly a task to be accomplished for Shoghi Effendi and I did to the best of my ability carry out his instructions to bring back the material he needed. .
that she did not write her account until so prompted in the approach to the World Congress in London by Hand of the Cause William Sears. Until then and even in the period after, few Bahá'ís knew the origin of the photographs which adorn their account of the Bábí heroes.23
In the 1930s the labours and responsibilities of Shoghi Effendi increased. He returned from a holiday in October 1931, Effie felt, not looking any better, and even more tired and worried than when he departed. Pilgrims and assistants continued to arrive and depart in a steady stream. Mrs Lynch was in Haifa in November, assisting Shoghi Effendi with translation of German correspondence, and possibly also some Russian. Albert Windust also arrived in November, to assist Shoghi Effendi with preparation of the next volume of the Bahá'í World.
Late in 1931 Effie was overjoyed to welcome to Haifa Auckland Bahá'ís Amy Dewing and her daughter Vera. She had not spoken with any Bahá'ís from near her homeland since the pilgrimage of Amy Dewing's son Bertram, in April 1930. Effie and Fujita accompanied the Dewings to Bahji and Akka, and made sure of their physical comfort during their precious days spent in the precints of the Holy shrines. From 1932 pilgrims were allowed to sleep in the mansion at Bahji overnight.
Clara Dunn made her pilgrimage in April 1932. This must have been a wonderul reunion for Effie, so many years after taking leave of the Dunns. Clara signed the visitors book at Bahji on the 15th of April. and may have been among the first pilgrims permitted from that year to sleep overnight at the Mansion of Bahji. Shoghi Effendi, however, was keenly disappointed that Hyde Dunn was not with her After a brief stay, Clara returned to Australia, bearing instructions from Shoghi Effendi to the the Bahá'ís of Australia and New Zealand that the time had come to establish their National Spiritual Assembly.
Life at the pilgrim house continued unchanged throughout 1933. On pilgrimage in April were the remarkable individuals Marzieh Gail, Marjorie Morten, Mark Tobey, and Moutfood Mills. Marzieh Gail, who was greeted at the pilgrim house by Effie and Fujita when she arrived on 17 April, recorded in her diary:
Effie's three white cats with pink ears in the white marble halls. Canaries also - a swift, a salvaged bird's nest - makes doll's houses, knowledge of flowers. Takes exquisite care of pilgrim house. Floats roses in glass bowls. Puts a pink or yellow flower on Howard's tray. She and Marjorie seemed to get along very well.1
Keith Ransom-Kehler, who arrived in August and stayed for nine weeks, was another who noticed and appreciated Effie's spiritual qualities. She rushed a report of her visit to Star of the West, which the editors published in the November issue:
I am greeted by Fujita, a child of Nippon, then by Isfendiar from the Cradle of the Faith, and next by Effie Baker, cameo-like, the first person in Australia to embrace this all inclusive message. On, on, the irresistable tide of fellowship and goodwill is carrying the soul of humanity to a new attitude of love, abnegation and service. Effie, with a self-effacement that only the love of God could give, reflects the spirit of the Holy Family in her work at the pilgrim house. She comes out to embrace me with an unaffected cordiality and to knit still closer those intangible bonds that will hold me to this sacred spot forever."2
Mrs Ransom-Kehler came from New York. A world traveller promoting the Bahá'í Teachings, she had visited the Communities in Australia and New Zealand during 1931-32, and conducted an exhaustive tour of India before reaching Haifa. Shoghi Effendi had requested her to travel to Persia to conduct a delicate assignment with government officials, and there she died in Isfahan, of scarlet fever, in 1933.
Passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf
Bahiyyih Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf, the daughter of Bahá'u'lláh who had been such a support to Shoghi Effendi, died in July 1932. Her loss was deeply felt by him, and was no less a loss to Effie, who loved her so dearly. Forever after Effie kept with her Marjorie Morten's tribute to the Greatest Holy Leaf:
Something greater than forgiveness she had shown in meeting the cruelties and strictures in her own life. To be hurt and to forgive is saintly but far beyond this is the power to comprehend and not be hurt. This power she had. The word mazlum, which signifies acceptance without complaint, has come to be associated with her name. She was never known to complain or lament. It was not that she made the best of things, but that she found in everything, even in calamity itself, the germs of enduring wisdom. She did not resist the shocks and upheavals of life and she did not run counter to obstacles. She was never impatient. She was as incapable of impatience as she was of revolt. But this was not so much long-sufferance as it was quiet awareness of the forces that operate in the hours of waiting and inactivity. Always she moved with the larger rhythm, the wider sweep, toward the ultimate goal. Surely, confidently, she followed the circle of her orbit round the Sun of her existence, in that complete acquiescence, that perfect accord, which underlies faith itself.3
Signs of appreciation
Photographic work for the Guardian continued. The American National Assembly had come to appreciate her photographic work, and secretary Horace Holley wrote on its behalf:
May I ...express the heartfelt gratitude of all the American friends for the many unique illustrations you contributed to the Dawnbreakers as well as to successive volumes of the Bahá'í World. These photographs are most inspiring to the American Bahá'ís.4
The British Bahá'ís, too, recognized Effie's achievement, when summarising the progress of Bahá'í community in 1944 - the occasion of the centenary of the Declaration of the Báb.5
Effie served as photographic editor for the 1934-36 volume of the Bahá'í World, as she had for earlier volumes. In her work as pilgrim house hostess, no less than in her photographic work, Effie had consolidated her reputation. When Corrine True made her final visit to Haifa in 1935, records her biographer, she
... entered the Pilgrim House as if she were visiting a close relative. She was in familiar surroundings, having stayed there her last two pilgrimages. As soon as she set foot in the dwelling, she called out: "Yoo hoo, Effie, I'm here!" and proceeded to search for her friend.
Effie had lovely rooms arranged for Corrine and her daughters. A vase of fresh flowers was on each dresser.6
In 1935 Effie served her tenth year as pilgrim hostel hostess. But the signs were that Effie's service at Haifa was near an end. Now aged 55, the physical demands of living in Haifa became more stressful. At home, in Goldsborough Victoria, her mother was quite elderly, and in need of constant and loving care. Toward the end of 1935 Effie resigned from Haifa's Social Service and Infant Welfare Association. Before doing so, Effie constructed a doll's house for the Association to sell to raise funds for the Centre was now treating some 3,000 infants. Sale of the dolls house raised £P.mills 53,200, an amount only exceeded that year by the Municipality of Haifa's donation of £P.mills 60,000. Shoghi Effendi had himself subscribed 10,000 to the work of the Centre.7 As Nathan Rutstein has recorded of the Guardian:
His contributions for charitable and educational purposes in the Holy Land were many and much appreciated throughout his ministry.8
In the time that Effie lived in Haifa it had grown from a small town of some twenty thousand people, into to a thriving port of over 75,000 inhabitants. She had come to know the sound of pilgrims' feet on red crushed tiles, as they walked through aisles of green grass and colourful beds of flowers, toward the Shrine of the Bab. She knew, too, the rhythm of the Holy household, and of the daily routine of Shoghi Effendi, who worked ceaselessly as head of the steadily expanding Bahá'í Faith. Shoghi Effendi may have felt that with his pending marriage to Mary Maxwell he was less in need of Effie's assistance. Certainly, he perceived the war clouds in Europe which resulted a short time later in the devastation of the Second World War, and considerable danger to all those who lived in Haifa during it. Whatever the reasons, Effie departed from Haifa at the beginning of 1936, having earned the lasting gratitude of Shoghi Effendi for her devoted services, and the admiration of countless Bahá'í pilgrims to witnessed her example of love, devotion and humility.
The steamer stopped in Perth and Adelaide before reaching Melbourne on February 3rd, 1936.1 The following day Melbourne's daily paper, the Argus, reported:
A disciple of the Bahá'í Faith, which has as its object the establishment of universal peace on a foundation of religious unity throughout the world, Miss E. E. Baker, returned to Melbourne yesterday after living for eleven years in Haifa, Palestine, where the headquarters of the faith are established. Founded in 1844 in Persia by a young nobleman, whose great-grandson Shoghi Effendi, has succeeded him in leadership, the movement spread rapidly, and today there are branches in 46 countries, Miss Baker said. The chairman and secretary from headquarters in Adelaide are at present on a lecturing visit. There are many adherents of the faith in America... Miss Baker, who expects to remain in Melbourne for some time, will stay with her uncle, Mr W. Baker, at Woodend, for a few days.2
11 February 1936
My Dear Sister Maysie,
Today your letter to me was returned from Haifa. Many thanks for it. I am afraid my dear you are inclined to over-state my value and put me on a pedestal. Don't do it my dear for I'm certainly no saint whatsoever! Well! It was nice to see you all once again. When I reached Melbourne my uncle with his two daughters and their families, and two sisters of mine (one with her husband and little girl), were there to meet me, so we had quite a family reunion. I went straight up with my uncle to his home at Woodend. He would've been so disappointed otherwise, then next day I came home to see mother and here I am. My sister Jessie was unable to get down to the boat so I've not seen her yet, or my youngest sister. There is a cheap excursion from here on Saturday morning to town so I am returning by that to see my sister and will take mother down with me for a little change. I find both she and uncle have changed very much since I went away.
I am feeling much better for the sea boyage and now a quiet rest here will do me good. Mrs Hastings sent on a wire that Father and Mother Dunn sent asking if I were coming to Sydney but that is impossible at present, finances won't permit. I will have to leave that to some future date. I am glad Father is so much better. I am sorry the friends did not remind me about the sweets, however I shall post it on...
The weather is nice and cool so far so I am enjoying myself out in the fresh country air with nothing to do but eat and sleep. Your little gift is very nice and thank you very much. Well, I must go to the station and post off my mail. I have a pile of letters to answer. My sister had a nice wireless given to her for Xmas so we can listen in. The Adelaide station comes through very clearly and last night we heard the Adelaide boys choir very distinctly. Give my love to dear brothe Perce. It was good just to see him for a few minutes even,
much love to yourself, your loving sister, Effie.
In March, having spent some days with family members in Melbourne, Effie obtained a cheap excursion rail ticket to Sydney to visit Clara and Hyde Dunn for one week. She had seen Clara in Haifa in 1932 but Hyde's health was now failing, and Effie had not seen him for a decade. The Sydney Bahá'í community had grown more rapidly than its Melbourne counterpart. Ruby Beaver, and Oswald Whitaker and his wife were there; and as there were now more than a hundred Bahá'ís in Australia - including quite a number in Sydney - there were many new friends to make: Mariette and Stanley Bolton, Tom Dowson, Hilda Gilbert, Mrs Luby, Mrs McLachlan, Charlotte Moffitt, Gladys Moody, Jane Routh, and many others had heard of Effie's work in Haifa, and were now eager to meet her in person.
On March 16 Effie returned to Goldsborough. The contrast between living in Haifa and Goldsborough could not have been more marked. In the one, she was at the spiritual heart of the Bahá'í world community, and in the other, a remote and mostly abandoned gold-mining town far from city life. She resumed a quiet rural life. Whereas each new day in Haifa was marked by the arrival or departure of pilgrims from all parts of the world, life in Goldsborough was circumscribed by distance, and occurred at a pace determined by family and friends who did not necessarily allow the momentous events happening in other parts of the world to disturb their comfortable and tranquil existence. No longer was there the possibility of conversing with Shoghi Effendi, no longer the excitment of the weary pilgrim arriving early or late, to be cared for and made at ease. Effie would have preferred to be nearer to town, but caring for her mother prevented this. Being in the country was not without its advantages, on the other hand. It was better for her health, and was more restful, being away from the bustle of the big city.
The work and climate in Haifa had been strenuous. Effie had often referred to the heat in Haifa in her letters home. She may have returned primarily to care for her aging mother. But were there not her other sisters, and relatives in Victoria, capable of this? Had the war clouds gathering over Europe compelled Shoghi Effendi to send some workers to the safety of their homes? Fugeta had returned to Japan. Perhaps the workload in Haifa now required younger hands? But did not Fugita return to Haifa in the post-war years, and remain there until his death in 1976? "I am thinking of you always and to write you for long times ever since I came back to Haifa", Fugeta wrote to Effie in 1961, "...Now Mr Featherstone is returning to Australia after the conferences. He will take back the interesting news. I am working hard to develop top of Mt. Carmel behind the Archive building. Some day I wish you could come to see what I am doing"3 But this was not to be. If Effie made her own decision to return, it was made with heavy heart, as she freely admitted when writing to Shoghi Effendi in February 1937:
...I cannot realize that it is just twelve months since I reached home, and the anniversary of my dismissal and departure from Haifa has been very sad to me, and I have felt very depressed and downhearted...4
Soon after her return Shoghi Effendi wrote, through his secretary, to the Australian and New Zealand National Assembly, that Effie had left Haifa "with the consent and full approval of the Guardian", and stated further,
As you know, for over ten years she has been devotedly working for the Cause in Haifa, as keeper of the Western Pilgrim House and also as the custodian of the International Bahá'í Archives.
During this long period of service she has accomplished much for our beloved Cause, and she is now in need of some rest after so many years of strenuous labours. She is going to join her mother, and will, it is hoped, prove of great help to the friends throughout Australia and New Zealand in both their teaching and administrative activities.
The Guardian hopes, therefore, that the friends will give her all the opportunity she needs to help in the extension and consolidation of the Cause throughout Australia and New Zealand.
He is entrusting Miss Baker with a beautiful and most precious present for the friends; it is one of the finest photographs of the Master which, he wishes your NSA to place in your National Bahá'í Archives. He is, in addition, sending through her for the believers a bottle of attar of rose extracted by the friends in Persia.5
Effie also carried gifts to the Australian National Assembly from individual Bahá'ís in Haifa. Mahmud El Mouchoucaly of Port Said, for one, had entrusted her with a box of Turkish delight. Hilda Brooks wrote to thank Shoghi Effendi on the National Spiritual Assembly's behalf for the gifts, and to report that the community was thrilled to have Effie once more resident in Australia. The Guardian had requested that the National Assembly assist her in every way possible. It was decided that Melbourne, more than anywhere, was in need of her assistance.6 In April Shoghi Effendi again wrote through his secretary to encourage the National Assembly's interest in Effie's well-being:
On behalf of the Guardian I acknowledge with thanks and appreciation the receipt of your letter of March 12th with enclosure. He is grateful for the warm assistance extended by your N.S.A. to Miss Effie Baker, and hopes that she will be of valuable assistance to you all, specially to the friends in Melbourne. The task of organizing the believers in that center is no doubt a very responsible one, and the Guardian trusts that she will be able to fully acquit herself of it.7
In its October 1936 half-yearly report the Sydney Local Assembly observed that "it was a source of great pleasure" to have Effie in Sydney, and "to listen to many accounts of her experiences during her sojourn in service to the Bahá'í Cause".8 The National Spiritual Assembly included in its Annual Report Effie's return as one of the highlights of the year:
...Miss Effie Baker ... has returned to her home near Melbourne after many years service at the Pilgrim House at Haifa. Miss Baker visited Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and melbourne on her way home. We shall always remember this selfless servant of God, who made the Holy places seem very much nearer to us, and who showed us by the example of her own life, the meaning of self-sacrifice and true severance.
Travel was not easy in the first years after her return, as Effie had not yet established a source of income. The Australian Bahá'ís expressed their concern for Effie, now that she had returned from a decade of service in Haifa. When Annie Miller of Perth, for instance, learnt of her "very straightened circumstances" from Rose Webb, she wrote to the National Assembly, asking if Effie could be assisted. Although some Bahá'í businessmen in Sydney offered to the National Assembly to assist with the sale of her toys in Sydney and Melbourne, Effie responded that her "toys or any of the work" she did would "lose their artistic sense through mass production".9 She believed there was still room for handicrafts, but admitted there was only a small market.
She had intended applying to various schools for employment as an art instructor, but was disheartened by the discovery upon her return home that the trunk containing all her educational certificates had been opened and its contents disappeared.
When I came back from Haifa the trunk had been opened and the contents 'gone west'. It was being used as a bread bin. (She had left her possessions with a sister). All my certificates certifying my passing various exams were gone which would have been handy for me to apply for a position of art instructor when I came back. However no use crying over spilt milk"10
Perhaps Effie could have continued with her purpose, but this setback deflated her enthusiasm. We know from letters that she continued to earn a small income from orders of Calendars of Australian birds and animals. She also continued to make and sell handicrafts, and in the 1930s some of her photos of Australian wildflowers were used as a series on the covers of school books. By August 1936 she had established a darkroom and was earning a small income from photographic work. A brother-in-law secured work for her by showing samples to various business houses. She also continued to work with wood: not too long after her return she constructed a doll's house for raffling by a local charity. Its large rooms were fully furnished, and, most spectacularly, it was lit by a small battery-operated light - a feature which long remained in the memory of local residents who were to wait another twenty years before their own houses were provided with electricity.11
Effie only travelled from Goldsborough for short periods, spending most of her time at home caring for her sister and mother. Living with her mother and her sister Ester was not easy, as her sister, especially, had an entirely different temperament to her own. "Effie believed in turning the other cheek, and Ester believed in hitting that too", is how one relative described their relationship. According to another, most of Effie's time was spent:
looking after ungrateful relatives. That is a bit of a harsh statement, but even her sisters didn't get on too well with her, probably she was too kind to them and they abused the privilege?12
Mrs Baker passed away in September 1945. She had been loved by all in the Goldsborough district and had led, Effie felt, a "beautiful and unselfish life". Hearing of her death, the National Assembly expressed to Effie the condolances of its members.13 Ester, who suffered rheumatoid arthritis, continued to require her care: "It must be a painful and distressing disease", Effie wrote to Dulcie Dive, "and one can make allowances for irritability caused by it."14 Ester died about 1961. If Effie had thought differently to her sisters in the period before she became a Bahá'í, a decade spent in Palestine, and her experiences in Persia, had further broadened and expanded her knowledge of the world. It was easy for her to think of the world as "one country", and to see all people as members of one human family; for she had lived with and become close friends with people of vastly contrasting cultures.
Travelling once more
Although the Bahá'ís and their friends were thrilled at hearing Effie recount tales of her time in Haifa, and in Persia, she could not be coaxed into giving formal presentations. The National Assembly wrote to assure her of its members "interest and support in any work she may be able to undertake" and to ask her if she had any definite plans in mind.15 Effie replied, however, that she did not consider herself as being a public speaker:
I wrote and told Shoghi Effendi that I am not a speaker and cannot give talks or lectures and hoped he would not expect it of me. Miss Dugdale sent a note in Ethel Blundell's letter asking me to write articles for the Magazine but I don't feel capable to undertake that either.16
Despite this diffidence, the Bahá'í communities throughout Australia appreciated Effie's company and invited her at every opportunity to visit them to share her experiences of living in Haifa. From Goldsborough she made short trips to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
She was a frequent visitor to her cousin, Hilda Anderson, at Greenhill near Kyneton, and she also visited as often as possible the family of her cousin, Mrs Wheeler. When in Sydney she often stayed on Garden Island, a small naval base in Sydney Harbour, in the company of Elaine and Captain Hutchinson, he being the son * of Sydney Bahá'í Charlotte Moffitt. In Brisbane, she stayed with her special friend Marie Kidd at "Green Hill", Meandarra. On one visit to Brisbane specifically to give an address, she enthralled some forty listeners with tales from her journey to take the photographs for the Dawnbreakers, with recollections of her pioneering work in colour photography in Australia, and with her account of the Dunn's first Bahá'í meetings in Australia.17
In 1936, the year in which Effie returned to Australia, the National Assembly did not convene a National Convention because it had expended a considerable amount on health care for Hyde Dunn, and could not afford the costs that a National Convention would have incurred incurred. When Convention was held the following year in Sydney Effie was unable to attend, and so missed the opportunity of once more meeting up with her fellow pilgrims Margaret Stevenson and Ethel Blundell. Disappointed at this, all Effie could do was send a cable to the Convention expressing her good wishes. Neither was Effie able to get to Melbourne when Freddie Schopflocher passed through.
Melbourne was the closest city to Goldsborough, and the Melbourne Bahá'í community was only slowly being consolidated, and Effie assisted teaching activities there at every opportunity. The Melbourne community had in fact struggled to exist and function since her departure in 1925, and at the time of Effie's return to Australia, only two or three of the first group of Bahá'ís remained. Unfortunately Kate McLoughlin, who had accompanied Effie and Martha to Tasmania and Adelaide, had been expelled from the Melbourne group by December 1925 by Hyde Dunn. She had been by turns a Catholic, a Bolshevic and a Socialist, and her efforts to disrupt the unity of the small group in Melbourne had provoked the most drastic action Hyde Dunn was ever required to take to ensure the continuation of the group.
27 March 1938
My Dear Gretta,
Your letter dated 22 February reached me safely and I am ashamed for delaying so long in answering it. I don't seem to have much time for writing and am afraid I have also become a bad correspondent for many a day. I don't seem to have much inspiration for writing. I think quite a few years have lapsed since I wrote to you last from Haifa. I was sorry not to be able to come to Yerrinbool for the summer school. I suppose you were delighted to meet Maysie after corresponding for so long with one another.
Miss Beaver sent me a copy of the letter written by Miss Ethel Dawe to Father and Mother Dunn after her visit to Haifa. She seems to have had a wonderful experience during her ten days stay there. One could not expect anything else. There is one great privilege denied her and that the personal meeting of the Greatest Holy Leaf. She surely met her in spirit but oh! to me Haifa was not the same without her Holy presence. She was the truest example of how the life of a Bahá'í should be lived.
During my long sojourn there I never saw once any difference in her life. She always radiated to rich and poor alike that wonderful radiating love. She exemplified all the attributes that make a perfect life. I just love to read and read that beautiful pen-picture of Khanum written by Marjorie Morten. Marjorie just effaces herself and brings Khanum a living person before one's eyes. How Khanum loved dear Marjorie and Marjorie loved her.
I am sure those who have not had the privilege of meeting her personally will do so as they read that article. Have you a picture of her? I will enclose the snap I took of her. I was photographing the picture of His Holiness the Báb in her room and Fugeta was there to assist me. I had asked Khanum two or three times if she would let me take a snap of her and as she seemed determined I did not press her. As she was sitting on the side of her bed watching me take the copy of the Báb's picture with great interest I thought I would ask her again as I had a spare plate. She said yes! After I had quickly focused the camera Fugeta spoke to me and just as I snapped the bulb she said "what did you say Fugeta?" and smailed, so that is how I got the photo. To me it is Khanum as I knew her. Some people say how think and frail her hands showing the veins but I just love them for I knew the soft loving caressing touch of these lovely fingers.
She was a person of few words but immediately you entered her presence you felt the warmth of her love. I do treasure the original manuscript of that article signed by Marjorie and given to me. I hope that sometime I will have the pleasure of meeting you agin. I send you my warm Bahá'í love and greetings and am glad that you still think of me and Martha. We had some happy times in Hobart.
In His Service, yours lovingly, Effie.
Teaching activities in Melbourne
In 1938 Hilda Brooks reported to Shoghi Effendi that: "the faithful ones" in Melbourne were "pitifully few in number".18 She travelled from Adelaide in the company of her sister and brother in law, Rose and Will Hawthorne, and a total of six National Assembly members - Stanley W. Bolton, Mr Whitaker, Ethel Blundell, Silver Jackman, Bob Brown, and Hilda Brooks - gathered in Melbourne to make plans, toward which Effie gave her full assistence. The National Assembly members spoke at several public lectures intended to attracting new enquirer, and even laid plans to hold the 1939 National Convention in Melbourne, although these could not be fulfilled. Effie travelled from Goldsborough on the last weekend the National Assembly members were in Melbourne, and delighted them with stories of life in Haifa. The Bahá'í Quarterly reported:
All those that took part feel that this teaching effort has been sucessful both in spreading the glad tidings and in helping the Melbourne friends to embark on a vigorous teaching campaign. We are sure that the loyal little band in Melbourne will be blessed and assisted in their efforts. Already we hear the news that they are conducting weekly public meetings and that the small room they had engaged for the purpose has been filled with eager enquirers.19
Although the National Assembly was disheartened by the condition of the Cause in Melbourne, they were excited to learn that Clara Dunn had received a letter from Martha Root containing the news that she was to once more visit Australia, on her way to North America from India. Martha Root arrived in Australia in January 1939. She spoke in Melbourne at the "Women's International League for Peace and Freedom", the Australian Church, the Writers Cultural Club, Esperanto Club, Women's League of Health, a Journalists luncheon, Kilvington Girls High School, and a Unitarian Church, before moving on to Sydney on March 12. Effie and the Dunns were present at a reception for Miss Root held on April 10.20
The need to develop the Melbourne Bahá'í community continued throughout the 1940s. Members of the National Teaching Committee and the National Spiritual Assembly campaigned in the Victorian capital in October and November 1940, and Effie travelled from Goldsborough to lend support to public meetings addressed by Jane Routh and Charlotte Moffitt. 28 people attended their two public meetings, at one of which Ron Cover, a new Bahá'í, also spoke.2 1 Hilda Brooks reported to the Guardian:
Miss Effie Baker has returned to her home at Goldsborough, Victoria. She receives a small Government pension and is happier now than she has been at any time since her return to Australia. Her life has not been easy since her home-coming but now the small pension gives her a feeling of security and she is happy and free to teach the Cause. The N.S.A. intends to help her in every possible way. We appreciate very much her great services to the Cause.22
Jane Routh and Charlotte Moffitt were two of Effie's closest friends. To both she gave pens that had belonged to `Abdu'l-Bahá. Hilda Brooks wrote to Effie jokingly, "did they tell you that I was jealous because you went up to Melbourne for their visit and not for mine? I certainly was."2 3 Effie was freer to travel now, and the NSA expressed the hope that she would be able to travel more often to Melbourne to assist the small group of Bahá'ís there. Hilda wished her to visit Adelaide.
Late in 1941 the National Assembly instructed its teaching committee to encourage Effie in teaching work in Melbourne, and offer her assistance for travel. It was mindful of the instruction in Shoghi Effendi's letter of January 1936 to give Effie all possible assistance in teaching in Australia.2 4 Hilda Brooks and Rose Hawthorne visited in April and June. Jane Routh visited in October 1940, Charlotte Moffitt in November, and Gretta Lamprill, Kit Crowder and Ethel Dawe visited in 1941.2 5 For a period during the war years Effie lived in as house-keeper for a pharmacist in Camberwell in Melbourne. In January 1942 Effie supported the Melbourne teaching work of Emily Axford, Hilda Brooks, and Hugh and Ethel Blundell. The Bahá'í Quarterly reported that she:
was able to attend all the meetings and give added interest by her personal charm and her experience as a Bahá'í living for so long in intimate association with the Bahá'ís at the centre of the Faith in Haifa, Palestine.26
Following Mrs Axford's talk at the Lyceum Club on the afternoon of Friday, January 16, at a reception held especially for those who had become interested in the Bahá'í Teachings during that teaching campaign, Effie, by general request, "delighted everyone by her simple interesting descriptions of Haifa, the Shrines and other places sacred to the memory of Bahá'u'lláh and the Holy Family".27
Sojourn in Sydney
Effie moved to Sydney in 1939 when Stanley and Mariette Bolton engaged her to mind their three children while they went on a world tour. Scheduled to last from May to November, the Bolton's travels were cut short by the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. In the meantime, Effie was elected in April 1939 to Sydney's Local Assembly. For the first time since her membership on the Melbourne Assembly, she was a member of a Local Spiritual Assembly. On the local body with her were Clara Dunn, Hilda Gilbert, Charlotte Moffitt, Gladys Moody, Jane Routh, Margaret Rowling, Oswald Whitaker and Mr W. Wilson. Although no records remain of the Assembly's activities, there is no doubt that Effie would have enjoyed working with her good friends. This was also the last opportunity she had to spend time with Hyde Dunn, who was ailing. He died on 17 February 1941, following a long illness. Margaret Stevenson had died in Auckland six days earlier. Oswald Whitaker died in 1942.
Now in her sixties, Effie displayed, according to Stanley Bolton junior, an "engaging sense of fun and good humour" while placed in charge of the Bolton children, and was a good disciplinarian. She often told the Bolton children stories of her photographic work in Persia, and with her encouragement they made for the Guardian a booklet of the "Hidden Words" of Bahá'u'lláh, in colours which she knew were his favourites - red, which denoted the blood of the martyrs, green, which symbolised the linkage between the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, and gold, which represented the "the pure metal and the pure essence of the teachings". She delighted in pulling from the shelf to show to the children the first edition of the Dawnbreakers, in which one of the photos was reproduced upside down: "this was her sense of fun - it wasn't a mistake in her eyes - it was a bit of fun".28 At this time Effie continued her work as a freelance artisan, engaged in fretwork, photography, and painting. She always expressed her abiding affection for Shoghi Effendi, and her affinity with the women of the household in Haifa. But her years of taking photographs were almost over, and within a few years she had disposed of her precious cameras.29
The Yerrinbool School
In 1938 the National Assembly had accepted an offer by Mariette and Stanley Bolton to convene "summer schools" at their property at Yerrinbool, near Mittagong south of Sydney. The event became in subsequent years one of the most exciting annual gatherings for the Australian Bahá'ís. Although unable to attend the first few summer schools, Effie attended many over the following three decades.30 When she could not go, she cabled her greetings to the participants.31 Characteristically, Effie refused to regard herself as a speaker, and generally declined requests that she feature on the Yerrinbool School program. As she wrote from Goldsborough to Hilda Gilbert, secretary of the Yerrinbool School Committee:
mentioning about writing a paper my dear I've never attempted such a thing in my life. Afraid like the country side in which I am at present residing my brain is very droughty. To compose a few thoughts into passable english on paper would amount to almost a miracle for me, but then again droughts are liable to break any moment so lets keep cheerful and hopeful in the circumstances.32
Yet despite this reluctance to put herself forward, Effie's participation in the programs of both summer and winter school contributed significantly to their success.33 Dorothy Dugdale, an Adelaide Bahá'í who on one occasion shared a room with Effie at summer school, later recorded:
Effie was not a born talker and it was some time before I could get her to tell me about her life at Haifa, where she ran the pilgrim house with the help of a charming little Japanese gentleman named Fujita. At the outbreak of the war the Guardian had sent them both home for safety, but they neither of them readily wanted to leave. Effie told me about her travels through Persia, taking photos of all the Bahá'í places for the "Dawnbreakers" which was being published then.34
If Effie did not regard herself as a speaker, she was even less inclined to speak at random about the personal life of Shoghi Effendi and other members of the Holy Family. As hostess of the pilgrim hostel Effie no doubt became familiar with the details of daily life, but never allowed curiousity about such matters on the part of the Australian Bahá'ís to cloud her understanding of what was important to know about the Holy Land, and the Holy Shrines, and what were merely incidental matters.
The War Years and After
The outbreak of war brought restrictions on travel in Australia, but little threat from bombing, such as the European Bahá'ís faced. Although Effie had little correspondence with the many friends she had made while living in Haifa, she did have occasional contact through letters, or visits to Melbourne. Nellie French had passed through Melbourne in September 1937;35 Mrs Slade had written to her in Goldsborough in November 1945; Fujita, who had returned to Japan in 1938, sent her newsclippings in 1948 about the progress of the Japanese Bahá'í community. Corrine True wrote to Effie in 1941 to enquire after her, and to ask if there was any news of Fujita, whom Shoghi Effendi had instructed to return to Japan. "It is so long since I have had any direct word from you", Corrine commenced, "but I am thinking of you so many times and all the lovely kindnesses you bestowed upon me and Edna and Katherine while we were visiting in the Holy Land."
Despite the government's restrictions on inter-state travel in the war years, Effie obtained a permit to attend the National Convention in Sydney in 1944. This was an important year for the Bahá'í World, since it marked the hundredth year of the declaration of the Bab, and Shoghi Effendi had instructed all communities to hold dinners in celebration of the cententary. In addition, he had extended financial assistance to the Australian Bahá'ís to acquire a property in Sydney to serve as the Headquarters of the National Assembly. The two-storey home thus acquired, at 2 Lang Road Paddington, in which the 1944 convention and centenary celebrations were held, were later to become Effie's final and happiest home.
Having attended Convention, Effie wrote to thank the National Assembly for enabling her to be present, and commented on the progress of the Australian Bahá'í community. It now had a "permanent nucleus", she wrote, from which the "great truths revealed by Bahá'u'lláh" could be promulgated. The task for the individual was "to become happy and contented striving to become selfless, and in the greatest love and harmony co-operate with others". It was only with a "oneness of will" would the Bahá'í community prosper. The relationship of co-workers to each other was similar to the pieces of an orange, for "in a perfect orange each section lies in its correct place", just as "each member must be in his or her right place and work in love and harmony with fellow co-workers". "There must be a head to everything", she continued, "but the head cannot stand alone. True harmony and unity is attained when the head and members of the body work together. The need of today is the formulating of the true spirit of consultation and of steady co-operation amongst the believers of this wonderful Revelation for this Day...". She included herself as one of Shoghi Effendi's "loyal and conscientious workers", who needed to prove to him that they were ready to do their part "to carry out to the best of our ability his instructions, wise counsels, and good advice, to establish on a sound basis the administrative affairs of the Bahá'í Faith thus assuring its steady progress in our land."36
The efforts of many Bahá'ís to aid the Melbourne community continued. Maysie Almond moved from Adelaide to reside at the Bahá'í centre being rented at 88 Collins Street.37 Early in 1945 Effie was living in the Melbourne suburb of Canterbury. Clara Dunn visited Melbourne, staying first with Mrs Wheeler then with Mrs Culbert. Ruby Beaver came to Melbourne from Sydney on holidays. By March 1945 Eleanor Wheeler and Maysie Almond reported to secretary of the National Assembly Dulcie Dive that the former "trouble" in Melbourne was being replaced by a sense of love and unity.38
Effie continued to spend alternate periods living in Sydney and Goldsborough. She lived with friends in Sydney for a few months toward the end of 1947,39 and in 1948 resided for a time at Lang road. A talk she gave to the Bahá'í youth in Sydney in January, the National Youth Committee reported in their newsletter, was of such interest to them that a second meeting was arranged in April so that she could continue her account.4 0 She spoke at 1948 convention about the world centre, before returning to Goldsborough in June.41 She lived with Charlotte Moffitt in Mona Rd, Darling Point, Sydney, from mid 1949 until her good friend's death late in 1950. The obituary Effie penned for Charlotte provides a clear statement of the qualities she admired in her friend, and suggets also the qualities she felt were important to any spiritually-oriented life:
November 21st 1950 marked the peaceful passing of one of the early, and best beloved Bahá'ís of Australia, Charlotte Moffitt. The Sydney Community with which she was associated for some years, has lost one of its most loyal, staunch, and generous adherents. Always ready to render any service which would promote the spreading of the Bahá'í Faith; she gave freely of her time and energy, meeting, welcoming, and entertaining Bahá'í visitors, helping those in need, visiting anc caring for the sick, and locating rooms for meetings. It was mainly due to her untiring efforts the premises for the establishment of the National Headquarters were located and purchased. Her personal charm, unbounded generosity, her bright and cheery nature endeared her to all hearts. She will ever linger in our memory, as one who exemplified that this is "the day of deeds, not words". Her life was so full of live and selflessness, that her power of attraction was felt by all who cam ein contact with her. She was a sincere and devoted Bahá'í, and we are told that "the rays of those spirits the sincere, are the cause of the development of the people". From this beautiful soul "will appear the traces of God".42
When in Goldsborough Effie was one of only four isolated Bahá'ís in the Victorian countryside, the others being Una Colins at Talfains; Mr Keipert; and Mr Alf Jensen at Laverton. The few Bahá'ís in Melbourne included Irene Cover and her son Ron Cover, Emily and Cyril Easey, Charlotte Moffitt (staying for a while before returning to Sydney), Daphne and Robert Reid, and Emily Wheeler. Hilda Brooks visited Melbourne from Adelaide to assist Mrs Collins search for a new Bahá'í room, but was unable to find any suitable. Charlotte Moffitt moved from Sydney to reside in Queens St, Albert Park late in 1945. After two decades of struggle, a Local Spiritual Assembly was re-formed in Melbourne at Ridvan 1948. The community now included Mrs Adams, Mr and Mrs Bennett, Irene and Ron Cover, Emily and Cyril Easey, Vi Hoehnke, Mr H. Martin, Madame Holden-Graham, and Eleanor Wheeler.
Effie continued to support teaching activities in Melbourne throughout the 1950s. The highlight of this period being a visit in 1953 Hand of the Cause Mr. A. A. Furutan, and his translator, and later Hand of the Cause, A.Q. Faizi. Effie had met Mr Furutan in Persia in 1930, and Rose Maxwell, who travelled from Adelaide with her husband Jim to assist Effie in Melbourne, recalled 'getting Dr Furutan and Mr Faizi on the train to Ballarat and we were all laughing so much people began staring at us, oh we had wonderful days...43
Muriel and John Handley, who moved as Bahá'í pioneers to Ballarat in 1957, became Effie's closest Bahá'í neighbours. Effie gave Murial a silk scarf from Yazd, which had been given her by the Greatest Holy Leaf. This Murial later presented to the National Archive.44 Of these years Murial later recalled:
Effie Baker lived about 70 miles distant in her dear little home in Goldsborough, and she had a cousin living in Ballarat not far from us with whom she used to visit sometimes. These were great times for John and me because she also often spent a few days with us before she returned to her home. Listening to Effie's stories of her family, and especially of her years in Haifa and Persia were very stimulating. At times we did the visiting to Goldsborough. We were most grateful for these uplifting times with Effie.45
National Committee work
In the late 1940s Effie became involved in more activities at the request of the National Assembly. In September 1948 the National Assembly decided to establish an archive, and asked Effie to help.46 She felt there must be someone more capable should do the job, and did not wish for the Assembly to "waste" its money on her travel expenses in order to set up the archive at the Hazirat'ul-Quds in Sydney. But when the National Assembly insisted, Effie agreed, and suggested she commence work on the Archive following the 1949 National Convention. Years earlier, Effie had donated to the National Assembly's archives photos and manuscripts, including a small specimen of `Abdu'l-Bahá's handwriting given her in March 1926 by Gowar Bayum, sister of `Abdu'l-Bahá's wife Munireh Khánum;47 and in 1941, a "moving film" of Haifa, and the original manuscript of Marjorie Morten's tribute to the Greatest Holy Leaf. A number of items Effie had given to her Australian friends were amongst those that found their way into the archives: a pen belonging to `Abdu'l-Bahá had been donated by Mrs Routh; another of the Master's pens given to Effie by Shoghi Effendi, which Effie had given to Mrs Moffett.
In 1949, following National Convention, she commenced the sorting of artifacts and correspondence into bundles which she wrapped in brown paper and labelled clearly, for conservation until a later date when the National Assembly's archival holdings could be properly housed. Effie continued to serve the National Assembly as "National Archivist" into the 1960s.
In 1950-51 Effie was also appointed to the National Assembly's Reference library committee, and was elected chairman, with Avilda Johansson as secretary, and Jane Routh as the third member. This involvement with books continued into the 1960s, when she served on the "Bahá'í Book Committee" with Bruce Saunders, John Walker, Hugh Walker, Bessie walker, Glad Pollard and Mrs V Read; Stanley Bolton jr, and Brian Whitehead.
Return to Sydney
It was now twenty-seven years since Effie's return from Haifa. For two decades and more she had lived in Goldsborough, travelling several times each year to be with family members or at the invitation of Bahá'í communities. In the closing years of her life Effie lived once more in the heart of the Sydney Bahá'í community, at the National Hazirat'ul-Quds at 2 Lang Road Paddington. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s she had stayed at Lang Road for short periods; and in the early 1950s Clara Dunn, who resided in the small flat attached to the Hazirat'ul-Quds, had consulted Shoghi Effendi as to whether Effie could live with her. The Guardian had, at that time, said that the matter was one for Clara to work out in consultation with the National Assembly.4 8 In the m
In the months after the passing of Clara Dunn, in November 1960, the National Assembly recalled once more Shoghi Effendi's letter advising it to take the best possible care of Effie Baker. Thus, the National Assembly invited Effie to reside, should she wish, in the flat which had formerly been occupied by Clara Dunn. Although reluctant to leave a home which had been associated with the Baker family for nearly one-hundred years, Effie was pleased to sell it to her good friend Stella Childs, who had become a Bahá'í in South Australia in the 1940s. In 1963 Effie accepted the National Assembly's invitation and moved permanently to Sydney.
The World Congress
At the age of 83 Effie travelled in April and May 1963 to the World Congress in London. This was a gathering of Bahá'ís from all parts of the world to mark the Centenary of Bahá'u'lláh's proclamation of his Faith. It also marked the completion of the Ten Year World Crusade, which had begun a decade earlier, as well as the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. Effie was not going to miss such an important event, and she travelled to England in the company of Sydney friends Greta and Aubrey Lake. Although now physically frail, her sense of humour had not faded. On their arrival in England a nurse is reported to have appeared at the boat's gang-plank with a wheel-chair, and announced "Miss Baker, I have a chair for you", to which Effie reploed, "I may be weak in the head, but I'm strong in the legs!". It was a story she subsequently "dined out on many times".1
As well as attending the London Congress, Effie enjoyed a family reunion with Margaret Baker, (who was married to a son of Effie's uncle Will), as well as Mrs Baker's two sons and their wives. It was spring-time in London, and the parks and gardens displayed a wealth of colour. Effie visited the grave of her beloved Shoghi Effendi, and placed two long stemmed roses upon it. She had last heard from him personally in August 1951. Ruhiyyih Khanum had written:
The beloved Guardian was very pleased to receive your letter of July 23, and also the loving contribution you sent to the work being done on the Holy Tomb. I am enclosing his receipt for the same herewith.
Yes indeed, you would not recognize the place now; the Gardens are truly beautiful, and also many lovely and befitting ornaments have been added to the interior of the three Shrines which, while preserving their peace and simplicity, have greatly added to their beauty.
Often Shoghi Effendi remarks that if you were in Haifa you would take some wonderful photos. He considers no one has ever captured the beauty of the place as you did, and your photographs adorn his own rooms, and the archives and the Mansion, just as they did when you were with us!
He hopes you are well and happy, and he is delighted to see you are so active in serving the Cause there.
With warm Bahá'í love,
Assuring you of my deep appreciation of your loving contribution and of your unforgettable services at the World Centre of our beloved Faith, and of my prayers for the success of every effort you exert for its promotion.
Your true brother,
The visit to England also gave her more stories to recount to the Australian Bahá'ís, and she was invited, whenever she visited Sydney or Melbourne, to show slides of the Congress, and speak of her experiences while there.3 Friends and colleagues were now urging her more than at any time previously to record her story.
Signs of appreciation
In 1963, at long last, Effie completed writing her account of how she took the photos for the Dawnbreakers. She called her manuscript "My Trip to Persia". Hand of the Cause Bill Sears visited Australia in 1963, and wrote to Effie from Adelaide:
these are just a few inadequate words of mine to express the deep loving apreciation that Bahá'ís the world over feel for you because of your consecrated, loving, steadfast and continuous service to our precious Cause over such a long, historic and unbroken period of time. Only the future will truly appreciate what wonderful services you have rendered. We know how dear you were to our Beloved Guardian, and that makes you especially precious in all our eyes! Your pictures for the Dawnbreakers are a lasting monument, and your design for the ringstone Greatest Name will rest forever by the Taj of Bahá'u'lláh and on the bench where He sat in the Mansion; and in reality is also the ringstone design of the Greatest Name which the Beloved Guardian admired so greatly, and which is used on the corners above the arcade of the Shrine of the Blessed Báb.
It is an honour and bounty for me to carry your script to the Holy Land. I understand you also have the negative of the photo of the Greatest Holy Leaf; a most precious an dtreasured relic of the greatest woman in the Bahá'í dispensation!
It was a moment of true happiness for me to be with you and share the love that beams from your radient countenance. I hope with all my heart that you will set down on paper every last memory an drecollection you have of the beloved Guardian, and each of your invaluable memories, so to be treasured in the future. if possible, I hope you will put all these existing memories on tape-recording so future generations can hear these words in your own voice.
Please share this letter with Jim Heggie, so that he can carry on the urging, as he obviously has already been doing. What he tells you is true. These memories and stories do not belong to you alone, dearest Effie, but to posterity. Do not let them miss these tender recollections."4
In 1964 Effie handed Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone a tin-box which contained the glass negative of Effie's photo of the Greatest Holy Leaf, which she wanted him to have. Believing that it was much too precious and delicate to bear responsibility for, Mr Featherstone took it to Haifa to place with the International Bahá'í Archives, when the Hands of the Cause gathered in Israel in November of that year.5
Appreciations of Effie's contribution while at Haifa began to multiply. Jessie Revell, who worked for many years in Haifa, thanked Effie in 1964 for "so many beautiful and wonderful photographs".6 From their pioneer post at Dili, Portuguese Timor, Knights of Bahá'u'lláh Harold and Florence Fitzner wrote:
When we reach Haifa we will of course remember you at the Holy Shrines, and we will find many traces of your selfless service over the many years that you spent at the World Centre of our Beloved Faith. What an imperishable monument that is for your life's work of love and sacrifice to Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi and the other members of the Holy Family. What a pity you did not have time to write a book on your experiences at Haifa, it would be a wonderful story and historical record too.7
Effie continued to attend Summer Schools at Yerrinbool. For the school in January 1965 she wrote the following recollection:
Mrs Blundell and family, and Margaret [Stevenson] were staying for a twelve months visit to England. I had planned to return to Australia in three months. As I was bidding goodbye to the Greatest Holy Leaf, and Ladies of the Household ('Abdu'l-Bahá's wife, and daughters) they asked me if I would break my journey and visit them again and said Shoghi Effendi would be away on vacation, but they would like me to come. I did so, the Bay Steamers ran at monthly intervals, so as soon as I reached Haifa I went to "Cook's Tourist Office" and secured a berth on the next out-going steamer from Port Said.
In the meantime Mirza Jenabi Fazel (who was one of the Persian Bahá'ís who travelled to America with 'Abdu'l-Bahá to act as interpretor for him) arrived with his wife and two little sons. They were returning to Persia. Mirza Fazel had at the Master's request remained to teach the Faith to American believers. On arrival they were all suffering from influenza. Fujeta promptly picked up the infection so I took charge of the patients. The pilgrim House now an 'infectious hospital' myself temporary matron and nurse in charge of them had to cancel my passage once again. The Ladies then said "don't ;eave now till Shoghi Effendi arrives back". On his return I said it wasn't imperative for me to return to Australia so if my services were acceptable I was willing to stay. However! Shoghi Effendi said he thought it better to return and work with Mr and mrs Dunn. Again I secured a berth on the next out-going steamer. A couple of days before the date of my departure, Shoghi Effendi took me with him for the last visit to Bahá'u'lláh's Holy Shrine. On the drive back he said to me "you know Effie, a general always sends his good soldiers afar, he keeps the bad ones always under his eye". Next afternoon I was walking up the terrace (the only one at that time) to visit the Holy Shrine for the last time. Shoghi Effendi was starting to come down with some Persian pilgrims. He told them to continue and stopped to speak to me. He said "Effie, I've reconsidered my decision. I'm going to keep you here". I said "Oh, Shoghi Effendi, I am evidently one of the bad soldiers you told me about yesterday", and we had a hearty laugh together.
Well! I mentioned to you before that I was eleven and a half years in Haifa. You see it took Shoghi Effendi all that time before he let me out of his sight. He was so humble and self-effacing, so grateful and gracious, when thanking you for anything you did for him. He said to me when arranging the table for lunch "don't set for me at the head of the table, I don't wish to be considered superior to the friends. I am just their brother in the Beloved Faith.
The only change in dress after he became Guardian was to discard the red Turkish Fez when he wore as a student, to the black worn by Persians, and he adopted a simple knee length coat with raglan sleeves as the only other distinction. He never wore the flowing Aba or white fez which 'Abdu'l-Bahá used to wear. The food was always cooked at the Master's home. Fujita and our arab boy would carry it over and keept it hot on our blue-flame stove. Fujita would then inform Shoghi Effendi all was ready and he would come to the dining room and stand behind his chair. I would then announce to the pilgrims that Shoghi Effendi would like them to partake lunch with him. As they entered the room he greeted them and with a beautiful smile he assigned them their seats, always choosing a different one each day to sit at the head of the table next to him. After all were seated then the conversation started and many questions were asked and answered. Some of the pilgrims came with notebook and pencil at intervals (between eating) were busily recording the conversation. Just before taking his leave Shoghi Effendi, with a twinkle in his eye would say "Friends I noticed some of you busy with note-book and pencil. If you are forwarding the information to the Friends in America, just add a foot-note and say 'these are my impressions of what Shoghi Effendi said during our table conversations'".
Shoghi Effendi possessed a great sense of humour. I remember some Persian Bahá'ís who had gone to America and established businesses there, returned to take their wives back to America. They had tried to persuade them before leaving Tehran to don western costumes but without success. When interviewed byShoghi Effendi, she held their chudors tightly across their faces, and just bowed in response to his remarks, not uttering a sound. I happened to deliver some work I'd finished for him. He said to me "Effie I've just been interviewing the Persian ladies. If they hadn't bowed to me at intervals I wouldn't have known whether I was speaking to their faces or their backs.
Shoghi Effendi liked to visualise any undertaking he had in mind. He would tell me what plan or idea he had and I would construct models to scake and he would look at them from every angle and then suggest where improvement to the scheme could be make. It was always a pleasure to do things for him, he was so appreciative of your efforts.
Residing at the National Hazirat'ul-Quds allowed Effie to participate fully in the activities of the Sydney Bahá'ís. It allowed her, also to see the delegates from all over the country, when they gathered each year in Sydney for National Convention. In conference publicity for an "Intercontinental Conference" convened in Sydney in 1967 Effie featured as "Australia's oldest Bahá'í". An article in The Australian commented: "An immencse gap lay between Ballarat and the Bab; Melbourne and the massacres of the Bahá'í. And she had bridged it.
"I never had any trouble", she said. And she giggled - as another overseas Bahá'í came up to her to pay homage.8 She cont
Effie continued to welcome many people to 2 Lang Road, both Bahá'ís and enquirers. One visiter was Ray Meyer, who had seen a Bahá'í display at Central Railway station. and had visited 2 Lang Road to learn more about the Faith. Effie greeted him, and later wrote him a letter which contributed to drawing him to the faith.9
Although Effie entered hospital toward the end of 1967 because of her deteriorating physical condition, her sense of humour never faltered. When a Christian clergyman, noting her religion on a chart beside her bed and commented "Bahá'í, isn't that the religion that takes a little bit of Christianity, a little bit of Islam, and a little bit of all the other religions, and mixes them all around - a bit like a fruit salad?", Effie replied: "Yes, that's right, and I swallowed the lot!". Her sparkling wit endeared her to all. While participants enjoyed sessions at the Yerrinbool Summer School, Effie's unique and eventual life reached its appointed term. She passed away in Sydney on the second day of January 1968, at the age of 88.
grieved news passing miss effie baker devoted maidservant bahaullah historic services particularly photographic record dawnbreakers unforgettable assure loving prayers sacred threshold progress her soul abha kingdom
The Universal House of Justice:
grieved news passing much loved early australian believer effie baker stop dedicated services faith homeland world centre unforgettable assure prayers shines her behalf10
The Hands of the Cause
The cortege moved from 2 Lang Road to the cemetary at Mona Vale which was chosen because of its proximity to the Temple. All this time rain was pouring down and it was so heavy that it was scarcely possible to hear the short prayers which were said at the grave-side. Many believers afterwards visited the Temple which was almost obscured by driving rain and the mist rising from the valley. Somehow there came upon us a strange sense of gladness. We are sad at our separation from Effie. We are rejoiced that her separation from the Greatest Holy Leaf and the Guardian, both of whom she served and loved, is ended at last.
- National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Australia
Miss Effie Baker was indeed a very spiritual, calm and often quiet individual. One of her outstanding characteristics was her smiling face and exceptional kindness to everyone. She always treated people with such friendliness and affection, you might imagine she had had a long friendship with them, when in fact she had not.11
- A.A. Furutan
Effie's loyalty to the Guardian was absolute. Her dignity, humour and quiet unassuming manner made her a treatured companion of the friends. She had kept a day-by-day account of her Persian journey, but her modesty and humility were such that it was with some difficulty that she was finally persuaded to send a copy of her journal to the Universal House of Justice. Effie lived a true and exemplary Bahá'í life, helpful, loving and affectionate and ever encouraging those who sought to arise to serve the Cause she loved so well.12
- Jim Heggie
Effie was a wonderful photographer and rendered the Faith at the World Centre, as well as elsewhere, notable services. She certainly took all Shoghi Effendi's favourite pictures of the monument to the Greatest Holy Leaf.13
- Ruhíyyíh Khánum
By the publication of "The Dawn-Breakers", richly illustrated with the pictures she had taken, the results of her trip to the various parts of Iran and of her efforts in recording photographically the many sacred and historical sites there, accomplished with great care and wisdom under the direct instruction of the beloved Guardian, became evident. I never heard a single word from her personally about those glorious services to the Faith of God, nor the selfless acts performed in the Holy Land. She was truly humble and an exemplary manifestation of nothingness.14