Bahá'í Library Online
. . . .
>>   Biographies Books
TAGS: Dawn-Breakers (book); Effie Baker; Photography
LOCATIONS: Australia; Iran (documents); Iraq; Israel
add tags

Ambassador at the Court:
The Life and Photography of Effie Baker

by Graham Hassall

previous chapter chapter 9 start page single page chapter 11 next chapter

Chapter 10

Travel through Persia

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:


The second cable, sent 21 June 1932, read:


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

previous chapter chapter 9 start page single page chapter 11 next chapter
Back to:   Biographies Books
Home Site Map Links Copyright About Contact
. .