Biographical Sketch of Eugenia M. Bacon

Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Eugenia M. Bacon, 1853-1933

By Anna Harvey, student, Brown University

President, Illinois Federation of Women's Clubs; State Secretary, General Federation of Illinois; Secretary of the Board, Illinois Library Extension Commission; Officer/President, Decatur Women's Club

Eugenia McKenzie Bacon was born in Bowling Green, Indiana, on October 4, 1853. She moved to Tuscola, Illinois, in 1861, and married Lt. George R. Bacon there on March 31, 1874. When Lt. Bacon resigned from the army in 1878, the family moved to Champaign, and later settled in Decatur, where Eugenia undertook her first bit of civic engagement. The couple had one child, George Richard Bacon Jr., who died at the age of eight. Lt. Bacon died in 1911, and Eugenia lived as a widow until her own death on December 10, 1933.

Eugenia Bacon served as officer of the Decatur Women's Club for ten years, five of which she spent as president. At the turn of the century, she expanded her role to the state level, and served two terms General Federation State Secretary for Illinois, followed by two years as president from 1902-1904. Bacon was active in reform movements, especially those surrounding compulsory education and child labor laws, and under her administration, more women joined the federation and appeared publicly before the state legislature. Her most notable service during this period was as the only woman on the Library Extension Commission, a branch in whose formation she was instrumental. The goal of the commission was to establish and promote free public libraries across the state, and Bacon was named Secretary of the Board at the first meeting in October 1909.

Bacon was also involved in the suffrage movement, and she frequently spoke before the state legislature on the issue. A Chicago Tribune report from April 14, 1909 indicates that she discussed the "Church Interest and Suffrage for Women" as a bill for statewide suffrage was reported out of committee. A 1910 letter to Jane Addams (with whom she frequently collaborated) also details her work within the movement, as she recounts her success in creating programs with the D.A.R. that were suitable for "a newer ideal of patriotism," among them citizen government with an emphasis on women's involvement in it. In the letter, she declares "the suffrage cause is growing very strong here," and muses that "we all do our usual parts of praying in the churches and serving lunches...but this seems only half of what might be done with a small ballot."

Sources:

Mark W. Sorensen, "The Illinois State Library: 1870-1920," accessed online at:
-http://www.lib.niu.edu/1999/il990294.html

Eugenie M. Bacon to Jane Addams, March 7, 1910, accessed online http://digital.janeaddams.ramapo.edu/items/show/2699

"Bacon, Eugenia McKenzie (1853-1933," biographical entry in the Jane Addams Digital Edition, accessed online at http://jaddamscollection.ramapo.edu/items/show/2698

Suffragists Win Big Senate Point," Chicago Tribune, April 5, 1909, p. 1, accessed online at http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1909/04/15/page/1/article/suffragists-win-big-senate-point

"The Work of the IFWC", in the Illinois State Library Heritage Project, accessed online at
https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/library/heritage_project/home/chapters/the-state-library-growth-of-illinois-public-libraries/the-work-of-the-ifwc/

Maude G. Palmer, The History of the Illinois Federation of Women's Clubs, 1894-1928, pp. 48-53 [LINK]

back to top