June 28, 2012

Dorothy Baker -- Hand of the Cause

Dorothy Baker and family

Dorothy Baker with daughter Louise Baker Matthias

Born in Newark, New Jersey, 21 December 1898, Dorothy was the granddaughter of Mother Beecher, herself a Baha'i, who took her to see 'Abdu'l-Baha in New York in 1912. Dorothy was too shy to speak during that meeting, although she wrote afterward to Him stating that she wished to serve the Cause. 'Abdu'l-Baha responded that He would pray that God would grant her desire. She developed into a most eloquent, persuasive, and convincing teacher for small groups or large audiences, and in addition to an inimitable charm she had a sincerity that was with her always -- she was an ardent Baha'i first, last, and at all times.

As a public speaker she was much in demand, traveled throughout the United States and Canada, and became well known for her interracial concerns -- during one year alone she lectured in 90 colleges throughout the South proclaiming fearlessly the principle of the oneness of mankind. She was called upon by Shoghi Effendi to travel in Central and South America, which she toured on several occasions, as well as visiting Europe. She was also a most competent administrator and served as a member of the United States National Spiritual Assembly for 16 years (chair for four of them). After being appointed a Hand of the Cause her service intensified, and she was present with other Hands at the series of four International Teaching Conferences called for 1953, the first one in Kampala, Uganda, which she attended immediately following her long-awaited pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During this conference some of the Hands met each other for the first time.

In that same year (1953) she was again elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, and such was the spirit of the times that five of the nine members resigned to go pioneering. Her husband, Frank Albert Baker (1889-1963), whom she married in 1921, was her mainstay and supporter throughout her married life. A friend once wrote about Frank, "I don't believe the extent to which he sacrificed to make it possible for Dorothy to do all the things she did is generally realized. He loved her very much, and he loved being with her. . . . I've always felt that in many ways he was an unsung hero of the Faith." Frank himself is on record of having confided to another Hand, "First of all, she's not just my wife. She's my queen. I would never consider her my equal. As far as her services go, my main recollections are of packing and unpacking. I send her off on a teaching trip and when she returns I help her unpack. Those moments when we're home together are the sweetest moments of my life."

During September 1953 she attended the last of the Intercontinental Conferences in New Delhi, India. While she was there Frank was continuing with their plans to move and settle in Grenada, Windward Isles. Following the very successful conference, Dorothy and some other Hands were asked by the Guardian to stay over for some time to travel teach in various locations throughout India. At that time the Bakers had homes in the United States and in Lima, Peru. To relocate to Grenada they were in the process of selling both houses. During that period Frank wrote to a friend, "Dorothy will be home about December 14th. . . . This will probably be our last long separation -- hope so at any rate as I miss her more than on any of her other trips." Due to a very intensive teaching and lecture tour throughout India and a final day of meetings in Karachi, Pakistan, on 9 January 1954, Dorothy was not able to keep to that timetable. On the 10th she flew to Beirut and then to Rome, where she posted her final reports to Shoghi Effendi and left at 9:31 AM. The plane exploded south of Elba, killing all on board. Shoghi Effendi cabled, "Hearts grieved lamentable untimely passing Dorothy Baker, distinguished Hand Cause, eloquent exponent its teachings, indefatigable supporter its institutions, valiant defender its precepts. Long record outstanding service enriched annals concluding years heroic opening epoch Formative Age Baha'i dispensation. Fervently praying progress soul Abha Kingdom. Assure relatives profound loving sympathy. Noble spirit reaping bountiful reward. Advise hold memorial gathering Temple befitting her rank imperishable services." 
(Adapted from the ‘Historical Dictionary of the Baha’i Faith’ by Hugh Adamson)