The historical marker honoring Anna I. Baker holds a prominent place on Kentucky Avenue, right across the street from the Carson Center. Even still, a lot of Paducahans may not recognize the name.
So, who was Anna I. Baker?
• A prominent Paducah businesswoman in the early 20th century
• The founder and first president of the Paducah Business and Professional Women’s Club
• The first president of the Kentucky State Federation of Business and Professional Women
Baker was born in Abilene, Kansas in 1873. In 1899, after earning her degree at Baird College in Clinton, MO, she moved to Paducah to work alongside her father, Captain Henry Baker, in the transportation department of the Ayer-Lord Tie Company. After her father’s death in 1916, Anna Baker took over the management of the transportation department of Ayer-Lord, coordinating the massive effort to ship railroad ties by rail and barge all over the United States. Such was the respect for Baker’s leadership and business acumen, that the Marine Ways named one of its towboats after her (pictured above).
In July 15, 1919, Baker attended the founding meeting of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women in St. Louis. Bringing the ideas from the St. Louis meeting back to Paducah, Baker established Paducah’s Business and Professional Women’s Club. The first meeting was held on September 23, 1920, making it the oldest BPW in the state of Kentucky. Baker served as its president for three years.
In 1921, along with six other professional women across the state, Baker helped organize the Kentucky State Federation of Business and Professional Women and served as its president for its first two years.
Besides her business and professional leadership, Baker was also well-known for her generous contributions to charities and welfare institutions throughout the city of Paducah, in addition to her “boundless charities, privately conducted.”
Upon her death in July 1931, the Paducah Sun Democrat stated in her front page obituary: “Miss Baker, an able leader, was prominently identified with every constructive movement in the life of Paducah. She was a woman of impressive mental attainments and recognized as one of marked business ability. She was highly efficient in the office she filled with the Ayer-Lord Tie Company and at all times was thoroughly conversant with and keenly interested in the river industry and its business development. Her efficiency won her the respect of business associates and a place of high rank among business women of the United States.”
For more about Anna I. Baker or any other people featured on our historical markers, visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.