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

by Graham Hassall

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Chapter 8

Pilgrim Hostel Hostess

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

The Mashriqu'l-Adhkár

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.

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