The Life of Effie Baker

Life of Effie Baker

Euphemia (Effie) Eleanor Baker, 25 March, 1880 – January 1, 1968.

As most of the world celebrates the new year, January 1st also commemorates the passing of someone special: Effie Baker. In fact, if you visit bahaullah.org (a wonderful photographic narrative of the life of Baha’u’llah) you’ll notice that many of the photographs of 1930’s Iran are credited to Effie Baker. A western Baha’i woman photographer in Iran in those days? I was a fish on a hook and needed to know more.

Effie (a nickname for Euphemia) Eleanor Baker was born 25 March, 1880 in Goldsborough, Australia. She was petite but energetic and had brown hair and blue eyes. Her childhood was spent with her grandparents in Ballarat. Her grandfather founded the Ballarat Observatory and if you visit it today, you can still see a specimen of his award-winning astronomical work: a 26 inch telescope called “The Baker”. Effie inherited an enthusiasm for science, a facility with technical instruments, and a keen observing eye from her grandfather. For a turn-of-the-century country girl, Effie was very well educated and when she wasn’t at school, she could be found exploring the countryside on a white pony named Nugget.

Effie studied and then worked as a visual artist. Armed with a formal understanding of colour, light and composition, Effie became enamored with photography. She also excelled at toy-making at a time when imported toys were scarce in Australia. In 1914 she published Australian Wild Flowers, a small volume of hand-painted photographs of local flora.

The turning point in her life was when she heard Hyde Dunn speak publicly about the Baha’i Faith in 1922. He and his wife Clara responded to the Master’s Tablets of the Divine Plan by moving to Australia two years prior. Effie noticed something radiant about Hyde’s face and during his talk, she wholeheartedly accepted the Baha’i Faith. Continue reading

“Mother and Father Dunn” A Poem by Aaron Blomeley [AUDIO]

“Mother and Father Dunn” is a poem written by Aaron Blomeley in honour of 100th anniversary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia.

Baha’i Blog made a video of the poem, read by Aaron Blomeley’s son, Bilyana, and we added imagery and music. This is the audio version of that reading, and you can find the video here: “Mother and Father Dunn” A Poem by Aaron Blomeley

Continue reading

21 Resources Relating to the 100th Anniversary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, so in celebration, we thought we’d bring together 21 resources that honor this historic occasion! Some of the resources listed are our own content, written or created by the Baha’i Blog team of collaborators, some are from Baha’i institutions, and some are individual initiatives that we’ve showcased and curated on Baha’i Blog.

Whether you’re Australian or not, we hope you find this list helpful and inspiring, and for our Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends, before you scroll any further, a warning that some of the resources listed below feature photographs of people who have since passed away.

Now on with the list! Continue reading

Integrating Arts into Community Life: The Experience of the Baha’is of Ballarat

I’m really excited to share a special arts initiative by the Ballarat Baha’i Community. In honour of the centenary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, we have invited renowned Ballarat musicians Geoffrey and George Williams to create a virtual choir using a choral piece based on the Writings of Baha’u’llah. It is a song that they composed for the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah in 2017 and now, as a virtual collaboration, my Baha’i community is really hoping the song can foster connection, bind hearts, and induce joy and happiness during a time when feelings of isolation and sadness are rife around the world.

The choral piece is taken from Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah:

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face…Be an ornament to the countenance of truth…a breath of life to the body of mankind.

The end result is bound to be spine-tingling, and my community and my friends are so excited to see the final production. Submissions are encouraged from everyone. Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant. Whether you have a lot of experience singing or not is irrelevant. Whether you are Baha’i or not is not the point. One thing is for certain – knowing that people will be coming together to sing words centred around generosity, gratitude, compassion and joy is sure to bring about some much-needed relief amidst a global crisis, not to mention the inspiration we are all bound to gain. For as Baha’u’llah says:

We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may he lifted up unto the realm on high.

I’ve included some details on how to participate in the virtual choir below but before I get to that, I wanted to share how this project came about and what I’ve been reflecting on in the process. Continue reading

A Tribute to Ethel Dawe

Early Australian Baha'i Ethel Dawe (1902-1954) Photo courtesy of the the Australian National Baha'i Archives.

The first generation of Australian and New Zealand Baha’is included a number of extremely capable women, who excelled at sharing the teachings of the Baha’i Faith through public speaking and writing, and who also learnt about the administration of the Baha’i Faith by serving on and establishing Spiritual Assemblies and committees, from local to national levels. They included Hilda Brooks, Margaret Dixson, Emily Axford, Maysie Almond, Dulcie Dive, Thelma Perks, and Gretta Lamprill. In celebration of the centenary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, this essay reviews the life of yet another of these early heroines, Ethel Dawe.

Ms Dawe was born in Kadina, South Australia on October 17, 1902. She was educated at the Methodist Ladies College, was an accomplished pianist and singer, and her recitations, as well as her participation in Adelaide society, was regularly mentioned in the newspapers’ social columns. In 1931 Ethel heard of the Baha’i teachings from her mother’s aunt, Maysie Almond – who together with her husband Perce had been the first South Australians to accept the Baha’i Faith after hearing Hyde Dunn speak in Adelaide in 1924. Continue reading

6 Ways My Home Community Plans on Celebrating the Bicentenary

Photo courtesy of Elliott Vreeland

Over 20 years ago, my family left metropolitan life and moved to the Australian regional centre of Ballarat. Located an easy 90-minute drive west of Melbourne, the city is renowned in Australia and abroad for its goldrush history. However, I like to think of its claim-to-fame as being the fact that Australia’s first ever Baha’i woman Effie Baker was raised there, and it was in Ballarat where she received the knowledge and training that would ultimately lead to her serving the Faith as one of its most notable photographers.

With a population of about 100,000, Ballarat is certainly rich in culture, history and heritage. But the reason I love my hometown most of all is because of the strong sense of love, unity and devotion which underpins the Baha’i community. While relatively small (we have less than 30 adult believers and about 15 children and junior youth), we have always managed to work within our means to serve the Faith in a spirit of utmost humility, forging a pattern of collective life that is warm, inclusive and ever-advancing.  Continue reading

Remembering Clara Dunn

Clara Dunn 12 May, 1869 – 18 Nov, 1960 (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

“Oh what an enormous duck! Oh what a wonderful duck! How splendid was this great big glorious duck!”

Clara Dunn was present on the occasion that Abdu’l-Baha recounted a story of a person who spoke in such a manner.

Her humility and spiritual receptivity, combined with the fact that the Master was looking directly at her throughout the story, lead her to understand that the Master was counseling her to refrain from exaggeration and to speak with honesty and accuracy.

Clearly she learnt this spiritual lesson well, and many more, for in 1939 Shoghi Effendi gifted a copy of The Advent of Divine Justice to Clara Dunn and her husband Hyde Dunn, accompanied by a personal letter written by his secretary:

The tribute so abundantly and yet so deservedly paid by the Guardian in this unique epistle to your magnificent teaching services is assuredly destined to transmit to future Baha’i generations, and in particular to the Baha’i teachers & pioneers of succeeding centuries, such measure of inspiration and such example of the pioneer service as cannot but inspire and guide them to follow in your footsteps and emulate your noble example.

When Abdu’l-Baha asked the Baha’is of North America to travel to remote climes to spread the Faith of Baha’u’llah, Clara and Hyde Dunn’s response was immediate. On 10 April 1920, Clara and Hyde Dunn arrived in Australia with the single purpose of establishing the Baha’i Faith in an area explicitly mentioned by the Master in the Tablets of the Divine Plan. So determined were they to go despite their age and lack of funds, that when challenged on the wisdom of their decision Hyde replied that “he would sooner die than not respond to Abdu’l-Baha’s call”. Continue reading