By Mariette Leong
Hand of the Cause Clara Dunn, known to all as Mother Dunn, pioneered to Australia with her husband Hyde Dunn (Father Dunn) in 1920. Mother was in her 50’s and Father in his late 60’s. They responded to the call of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the Tablets of the Divine Plan when He asked the American believers to scatter across the globe and take the Faith to all the continents of the world. Mother and Father patiently sowed the seeds and as the years passed, those seeds grew into beautiful plants bearing fruits.
It must have been a very exciting moment for Mother Dunn, when in 1958 she was present at the laying of the Foundation Stone of the Baha’i House of Worship at Mona Vale, Sydney, Australia:
Mother passed away in 1960 at the age of 91, and Father Dunn passed away in 1941 at the age of 86.
Mother was very much part of my growing up years as she visited and stayed with our family on many occasions. I have many fond memories of her. She loved to knit, and she would knit red and green shawls to put around your shoulder……I have one to this day. Red as the sign of martyrdom and green the lineage of the Bab. Sometimes she would drop the stitches and she would ask me and my sisters to pick them up for her and put them back on the needle – only a knitter will understand the task to perform.
When she was living in Sydney at the Baha’i Haziratu’l-Quds – in the small flat, she would send my sisters and me little gifts via my father (Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone). At the time he was on the National Assembly and would fly from Adelaide to Sydney to attend National Assembly meetings every couple of months so he would see her regularly. Some of the gifts she would sew, e.g. a lavender bag (a small bag of fresh lavender to put in your drawer to make it smell nice). She gave me an embroidered handkerchief, and the most precious gift was when she gave me her Baha’i ring. In return we would send little gifts back. She loved black jelly beans so I would visit three or four of the corner stores near our house and take out the black jelly beans from the jar of coloured jelly beans on the counter and send them to her via my father. She also loved “Cashmere Bouquet” soap which I would buy for her with my pocket money.
When my father passed away in 1990 all his files and papers were sorted out and I was given the letter that Mother had written to me back in 1953 when my parents went overseas on their first big trip to attend the Inter Continental Conference in New Delhi and then to go on Pilgrimage to visit the Holy Shrines and to meet with the Beloved Guardian. (I was 7 years old at the time.)
The four girls in the family stayed with friends and relatives during this time and I stayed with my father’s brother, Uncle Jack and Aunty Birdie and my two cousins. The letter reflects Mother’s love that she had for the friends at that time and the care and attention she paid in nurturing them in the Faith. Much of her communication was done by writing letters, and she wrote many.
“To my dear little Princess Mariette with all my love. You must be a real Princess for ‘Abdu’l-Baha and the Beloved Guardian. Show all the other children how kind and loving you can be and of all things do all you can for Mummy and Daddy who loves you so much and has done so much for you – while they are away in India make them proud to hear all the kind things you have done for your Aunty and Uncle. With my dear love to you, Lovingly, Mother Dunn”.
My father used to travel by DC3 plane from Adelaide to Sydney to attend the National Spiritual Assembly meetings in Sydney. The meetings were held at the then Haziratu’l-Quds in Paddington, Sydney and Mother Dunn was living in the flat where the caretakers and friends could take care of her.
One time, when Collis Featherstone arrived, he rang the door bell and Mother answered the door. They greeted each other warmly, and Mother said to my father something like this… “Well aren’t you going to give me a kiss?” My father replied, “The Beloved Guardian said that the men should not kiss the women.” Mother thought for a while and then replied. “He didn’t say anything about grandmothers!”
My father and my mother loved Mother Dunn very much. She influenced their young lives as Baha’is from 1945 onwards. She later appointed my father as her Auxiliary Board Member, and then in 1957 he was appointed a Hand of the Cause by the Beloved Guardian, and they worked side by side They worked very closely together for many years and she brought much joy and happiness to our family.