Alice Baker, CBE
Alice Baker’s name is immortalised in the Thomas Baker, Alice Baker, and Eleanor Shaw Medical Research Institute which was established at the Alfred Hospital in the 1920s, and continues its work as the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. An Abbotsford resident for almost 40 years, she was well-known for her philanthropic and social activities and her membership of many women’s groups. Towards the end of her life she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Born in Sydney, Alice Shaw met and married Thomas Baker, then a pharmaceutical chemist, in Queensland. By late 1880 the couple were living in South Audley Street Abbotsford and Thomas began experimenting with the production of photographic dry plates, a process which developed into a very successful business taking advantage of the burgeoning interest in photography. Alice assisted him in this work. Thomas would eventually became chief managing director of Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd.
At the end of 1884 the Bakers bought the nearby property known as Yarra Grange. Here they enjoyed life in a large house with extensive gardens running down to the Yarra, a fountain, and tennis court, as well as the domesticicity of a fowl yard, fruit trees, and vegetable garden. The large landholding gave Thomas space to build a laboratory for his work, and to add to the premises over the years as the business grew. Alice’s sister Eleanor Shaw and brother Alfred, also a chemist, came to share the house with the childless couple; both were involved with the business and were to become shareholders in Kodak.
Alice soon established herself as a benefactor and hostess. In 1894 Yarra Grange was the venue for a fund-raising concert in aid of the Richmond and East Melbourne crèche. The ballroom was decorated and a stage set up for musical performances and tableaux. Performers included the sons and daughters of well-known Abbotsford residents such as the Tolhursts and Lynches, who were in the audience along with the Snowdens. Alice’s singing was commended and Mr Baker also participated.
Alice joined the Austral Salon where she associated with more Abbotsford women such as Margaret Saddler and Lilian Zacutti. Alice also assisted with a local enterprise, the Collingwood Working Girls Club, in which Lady Snowden and Margaret Saddler were involved. Alice became honorary treasurer of the Austral Salon, while Eleanor was also an active member. They remained members until the 1930s, as did the Lynch and Zacutti daughters. Alice was also a member of the Lyceum Club.
The Bakers travelled regularly. In 1902 they delighted attendees at the Austral Salon with a talk about their holiday trip to Cairo and up the Nile, illustrated, of course, with photographic limelight views. In 1916-18 Eleanor joined them on a two-year journey to England and America.
After this trip the Bakers left Yarra Grange to live at Manyung in Mornington. In the 1920s the Thomas Baker, Alice Baker, and Eleanor Shaw Medical Research Institute was established at the Alfred Hospital, and carried on invaluable work in the advancement of medical science in Australia.
Alice outlived her husband by some years and continued her charity work. She was associated with the National Council of Women in Victoria and represented Australia at two conferences—one in Washington and one in Rome. The Women's Hospital and the Talbot Colony for Epileptics at Clayton were two of the Institutions which benefited from her generosity. On January 1, 1933, she was included in the list of New Year honours as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. At her death her estate was worth around £75,000; she left annuities for the Queen Victoria Hospital, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and the Society for the Protection of Animals. The residue of her estate was added to the capital of the charitable fund, the Thomas Baker, Alice Baker, and Eleanor Shaw Benefaction
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|Spouse Name||Date of Marriage||Children|
|Thomas Baker, June 1854-December 1928||1877, St Paul's Church of England, Maryborough, Queensland||None|
|Home Street||Home City||Status of Building|
|17 South Audley Street||Abbotsford||Demolished|
|Yarra Grange, Southampton Crescent||Abbotsford||Demolished|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|20 March 1935||South Yarra, Victoria||Cremated at Fawkner|
The Argus, Table Talk, The Australasian; Punch; Records of the Austral Salon, 1890-1984 (SLV MS12379)