In 1922 Effie Baker became the first Australian woman to become a member of the Bahá’í Community. She is inspiring to me because she broke free of the restraints on women of her era and used her talents and capacities to help contribute to the spiritual and material progress of the world. She was not only an accomplished photographer but served the Bahá’í Faith and the wider community with dedication and a spirit of sacrifice.
The episode from her life that inspires me most, and which I think shows her true character, is when Effie travelled through Iraq to Iran (then Persia) in the 1930s to take photographs of places and items associated with the origins of the Bahá’í Faith in the mid nineteenth century. This was potentially dangerous for Effie not only because she was a western woman but because she was a Bahá’í. In the late 1920s there had been a renewed wave of persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran. It was a time of social upheaval and political intrigue in Iran and she also ran the risk of being falsely perceived as a spy. On top of this, she faced enormous practical challenges in undertaking her work, not least being the complete lack of photographic supplies in Iran at that time.
Undaunted by danger or other obstacles to her endeavours, Effie endured 8 months of hardship in order to complete her photographs. She left Iran with more than one thousand good prints, around 400 of which have been published. They are a tribute to her determination, resourcefulness and considerable courage and her desire to make the world a better place for all humanity.
For more on Effie Baker see Travel Through Persia