A Legacy of Her Own: An Interview with 10th Generation Californian Anneke BarrieApr 07, 2023
We are a result of the strength, resilience, and perseverance of the women who came before us. We all have mothers, grandmothers, and aunts going back to the beginning of time, yet how much do we really know about our ancestors? These are the women whose values, sacrifices, and beliefs defined our lineages and shaped the journeys that brought us to where we are today. We are guided by those who have walked the path and in order to be clear on where we are going it is essential to know where they have been. Doing so ensures that we feel aligned with our life as it exists now and connects us deeply to our unshakeable and everlasting core.
Anneke is one such woman who considers and honors the rebellious, status-quo defying women of her past such as her great great great great aunt who developed the city of Santa Monica, her grandmother who championed the wellbeing of veterans and endured extraordinary personal losses, her Oma who challenged Nazis in order to preserve the safety of the innocent, and beyond.
As women in today’s society we need these central figures in our lives - women after whom we model our values, our principles, and our missions. My conversation with Anneke about her family shed light on the necessity of celebrating the unique qualities we inherit specifically from the women in our families. In her case - a renegade, vivacious, and individualistic streak that has spanned ten generations.
Anneke Barrie exudes enchanting, glowing California energy. The sun itself pales in comparison to her golden blonde hair and supremely bronze tan while her immeasurably blue eyes are the envy of the ocean and the skies alike. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss her as another bikini-clad LA beach girl but similar to the rolling waves she frequents there is far more brilliance and authenticity beneath her exterior beauty.
She is the heiress to a powerful legacy of women who have sculpted and defined the Western frontier before California was even a state. Similar to her heart, her noble blood runs pure gold. As a tenth generation Californian she has a lot to live up to, but she navigates her predetermined destiny with an approach that is entirely unique and true to her genuine self.
While there are no shortage of books and articles written about her prominent family, she has remained modestly out of the spotlight. That being said, this is a woman who was born to shine and it was my honor to provide the space for her to reflect on her fascinating lineage, how her ancestors have shaped her, and what it means to uphold her family name while carving out a legacy of her own.
The first inspiring ancestor Anneke highlighted was her great great great great aunt - Arcadia Stearns De Baker who was born in San Diego in the early 1800s which was prior to California seeking US statehood. Arcadia was often referred to as “the great benefactress of Santa Monica” and is credited with the creation of the original map for the city plan and layout of Santa Monica (1). Along with her business partner, Senator John Pervical Jones, she formed the Santa Monica Land and Water Company which subdivided and developed about 50,000 acres in West Los Angeles. From that trust, the city was born.
Arcadia was exceptional for her many accomplishments and philanthropic endeavors but Anneke is especially inspired by her ferocity in business:
"At one point Arcadia was the wealthiest woman in the state as well as a prominent socialite, and a powerful business woman. During that time period it was not common by any means for women to be educated or involved in business. She was lucky though because her first husband really taught her about how to run a business and provided her with a thorough education. So not only did she manage a home, host parties, and have a huge social life she was also a very smart business woman. One thing I always loved about her is that when she conducted business she only spoke Spanish and had an interpreter even though she was fluent in perfect English.”
Arcadia Stearns De Baker, Anneke's great great great great aunt
She was married to Abel Stearns at the age of 14, who was one of the largest fur and hide traders of the time (2). Her husband afforded her the opportunity to become a woman of great wealth not only in finances and land but in intelligence, experience, and social dexterity. When he passed in 1871 he left Arcadia with his amassed fortune as well as the capacity to be discerning about who she chose to align her life, vision, and mission with moving forward. She chose to marry Colonel Robert S. Baker in 1875 and together they played a crucial role in developing the city of Santa Monica.
Most notably amongst her many philanthropic efforts was the donation of a great deal of her land. For Anneke, this is a major source of admiration for her great great great great aunt:
“I am especially proud that Arcadia donated close to 400 acres to what is now known as the West LA Veterans’ Administration. She gifted the US government this beautiful piece of land for the national home for disabled veterans and soldiers. Almost 130 years later this is the legacy that I will continue to work for - promoting the welfare of veterans and a place for them to live.”
CAROLINA AND CHRISTINE:
Anneke’s grandmother, Carolina, was a champion of Arcadia’s legacy until the day she died, which was a passing that shook the heart of the Barrie family to its core.
I distinctly remember the last time I saw her grandmother:
We were sunning topless in the privacy of the Barrie family compound in Santa Monica, Anneke always insisted that our brazenness was perfectly fine and her grandmother wouldn’t care. Carolina (who was well into her late 80s at that point) waltzed in wearing a figure flattering bathing suit, gave us a nod and proceeded to sit in the shallow end of the pool - her German shepherds in tow. I moved to cover myself up and then I remembered Anneke’s many stories of her grandmother’s famed free-spirit and I let myself relax, sit back, and enjoy the sun.
Who among us really know or knew our grandmothers on a deeply personal level? Both of my grandmothers passed away when I was young and I never had a chance to spend much time with them. It’s common practice in the modern world to live apart from our loved ones and very rarely do we have the opportunity to really appreciate our elders for their wisdom, life experiences, and coveted advice.
Anneke, however, was fortunate enough to live with Carolina for 8 years and came to know her grandmother on a very intimate level. Carolina traveled the far reaches of the world and had a special affinity for Asia, surfed with Duke Kahanamoku, met her husband on the pebbly San Onofre beach, dined with the mayor of LA, played tennis and drove until she was 90, remembered astoundingly minute details of every single story, and passionately fought on behalf of the veterans.
To Anneke, she was her best friend of 25 years and the epitome of strength and what it meant to be a resilient woman:
“She surfed, rode horses, shot guns, she was a woman of all trades. And she dealt with so much in her lifetime. She had six children and she lost four of them, including my dad, before she herself passed away at 92. Someone once asked her, ‘how do you do it? How do you keep going? How do you endure such trauma?’ Every day, even when she was sick she got up, got dressed, put on a red lip and did her day. She always said to lead with love and come from the best place.”
Carolina channeled her own grief, trauma, and loss into something powerful and heart-centered. In her lifetime she engaged in extraordinary philanthropic endeavors but what she was most proud of was her work with the veterans. She once said, “ to move forward and to get through it you have to put yourself towards something that is greater than your loss. If you are leading with your heart, you are leading in the right direction.”
Carolina Winston Barrie: Anneke's grandmother
Arcadia and Carolina’s legacy of advocating for the veterans is now carried on by Anneke’s aunt, Christine, who is affectionately known as Tia. Each woman has brought a distinct quality to their community contributions. In their private conversations Tia consistently emphasizes the following with her niece:
“She always says to be vulnerable with my emotions, listen to my heart and my gut, to my intuition and to tune into the more spiritual side of things - this is where true strength is from.”
Christine "Tia": Anneke's aunt
Someday, when it is her time, Anneke will step into the same generational role as Tia and bring her own extraordinary perspective to the betterment of others that is a blend of her familial influence as well as her own life experiences, realizations, and inspirations.
ALBERDINA “DINY” AND ROSA:
The women on the other side of her family are equally notable and while I was writing this article, the same question kept coming to mind:
Why are we as women so complex and layered?
I think it’s because we are more than just one thing - we have multiple facets of our personalities, our dreams, our memories, and also our ancestries. For Anneke, both sides of her family are remarkable - especially the role that her grandmother played during the Holocaust.
“The women in my family are incredibly powerful. On my mom’s side my Oma (ie my grandmother) was born in the Netherlands and she grew up during the Holocaust. One of the craziest things my Oma did was deliver messages to people who were trying to escape. Her father would give her and her sisters notes and they would sew them into their dresses and go out on bikes, past the enemy and deliver them. These notes would include things like where the safest route was and who could help them and where to go. Her and her sisters put themselves out there to help other people. To me, it really showed the woman she was, even at such a young age.”
Alberdina "Diny": Anneke's Oma
Her mother, Rosa carries the same willful, bold essence of her mother - the very same freedom and passion that now lives on through Anneke:
“My mom was a wild spirit and she never wanted to settle down until she met my dad. She was a flight attendant, she traveled to Mexico, surfed, went everywhere and did everything! What I take away from my mom is a free spirit and just living fully for myself and doing what really makes me happy.”
Rosa: Anneke's mom
One of the things that I love most about working with women is bearing witness to their unique themes and patterns, especially in regards to their family history. That being said, it doesn’t take a diagnostician to identify the common thread that weaves these women from different countries, different periods of times, and different backgrounds together. They all subscribe to the same firm convictions of standing up for what is right, defying the status quo, leading from the heart, and living life governed by passion and purpose.
So how do these women’s legacies live on through Anneke? How does she embody the eccentric and individualistic qualities of her ancestors in who she is as a woman and the path she has chosen to walk?
While she knows where her life is going and the torch she will carry for the veterans when her time comes, she understands the value of cultivating an unshakeable sense of self between now and then so that she can be of service to others and bring her own voice and distinct impact to the greater good.
For now, she has taken a note out of her predecessor’s books and places emphasis on living beautifully, harmoniously, and with an abundance of reverence for the present moment. She encapsulates these virtues in all that she is from her vibrant personality, love of the ocean, penchant for fun, right down to the fashion brand she began last year with her best friend Tali - Isla De Oro. Her brand is a distillation of her spirit and adheres to the belief that “all women are a work of art and deserve to feel like a walking masterpiece.” Even more notably their signature print honors her grandmother’s affinity for Thailand and was pulled from a vintage silk napkin she picked up in the 70s during her travels. When you slip into one of their pieces you can feel the depth of love, history, and connection not only with Anneke’s ancestors but with your own as well.
Anneke at Burning Man in 2022
In closing, I implore you to take a moment to reflect on the following:
What does it mean to be remembered? What qualities do you want to embody? What is the legacy that you hope to leave? Do we, as women, want to be defined by our struggles, our imperfections, remembered for our shortcomings and victimhood? No. We want to be remembered for our resilience, our strength, our devotion to the community.
My mission is to remind women of their inherited strength - the resilience we have all been blessed with by those who came before us. We walk in the light cast by their lanterns and it is our responsibility to keep this flame burning. If you’re here today there have been powerful women in your past who have endured extraordinary adversity. Arcadia was married at just the age of 14, successfully navigated the business world of men, and shaped the very fabric of Los Angeles. Diny stared into the face of danger during the Holocaust and emigrated from the Netherlands to begin a new life. Carolina survived the death of her children and carried on with passion and purpose. And Anneke has faced her own pain and her own losses - the death of her father at a young age and immeasurable heartbreak yet here she is: devoted to freedom, embracing life, and establishing her own individuality so that when the time comes she can step into Tia’s shoes and sculpt a legacy of her own.
- "Staff Report – City of Santa Monica". www.smgov.net.
- Patricia Baker (1969). "The Bandini Family". sandiegohistory.org.
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