Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Katherine ("Kate") Imogene Bacon Nixon (D'Aleria), 1868-1939
By Dana Bennett, PhD, Reno, Nevada
Born on July 4, 1868, in Chicago, Katherine Imogene Bacon was raised in Princeton, Illinois, by Porter and Adelaide Bacon. Kate Bacon and her mother took the train west to visit her brothers, Edward Lee Bacon and Lucius Allport Blakeslee, who had settled at Humboldt House, Nevada, in the 1870s. Probably through her brothers, she met George Stuart Nixon who had established the First National Bank in nearby Winnemucca in 1886. On January 29, 1887, George Nixon and Kate Bacon married at the Blakeslee home in Humboldt House and settled in Winnemucca. Their only child, Bertram Stuart Nixon, was born there on November 19, 1887.
At the time of their marriage, George Nixon's business success and political influence were accelerating. He served in the 1891 session of the Nevada Legislature and partnered with George Wingfield on profitable mining ventures in the Tonopah/Goldfield rushes of the early 1900s. In 1905, the Nevada Legislature elected George Nixon to serve as U.S. Senator from Nevada. He was re-elected in 1911, but died unexpectedly in 1912.
When the Nixon family moved to Reno in 1906, they were among the wealthiest families in Nevada. From their large mansion overlooking the Truckee River, Kate Nixon hosted and participated in the bridge parties and club meetings that occupied the town's elite women. She was a member of the prestigious Twentieth Century Club and supported the YWCA.
Surviving evidence of her suffrage activity is scant, but it suggests that Nixon remained a suffrage supporter from 1911 to 1920. In early 1912, the local newspaper reported that she co-hosted a reception for the Nevada Equal Franchise Society at the home of prominent suffragist, Lena Norton. But her husband's death greatly curtailed Kate Nixon's movements.
By October 1914, the battle to win the vote for women in Nevada was fully underway. That month, the Nevada Equal Franchise Society invited Jane Addams to speak in Reno, and an exclusive dinner was held in honor of the celebrated guest. Lena Norton served as toastmistress as welcoming speeches were given by some of Reno's most elite citizens, including Kate Nixon.
Despite the thin historical record, Nevada's suffrage leader, Anne Martin, credited Kate Nixon with an important public role. Senator Nixon's death had left an extensive estate, including ownership of the local Republican newspaper, the Reno Evening Gazette. Beginning early in 1912 through most of 1913, especially during a critical legislative session, Kate Nixon apparently influenced its editorial stance on woman suffrage. The newspaper published anti-suffrage articles, but it also provided a platform for Martin's weekly report, the "Equal Suffrage News." By November 1913, Senator Nixon's business partner George Wingfield solidified his control of the newspaper, changed editors, and hardened its position against suffrage. The weekly report disappeared.
Senator Nixon left an estate worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in today's value, and Kate Nixon was recognized as "a very capable business woman" who had actively participated in its management. One wonders if she might have quietly financed suffrage activities in Nevada in the same way that her husband had quietly kept the fledgling Nevada Historical Society afloat during its first years. The financial contributions from Nevada's wealthy women to Nevada's suffrage efforts are not yet fully understood.
Nevada women won suffrage in 1914. By 1919, when attention turned to the national suffrage amendment, Kate Nixon's attention had turned to a younger man. She sold the Nixon Mansion (the name by which it is still known over 100 years later) and traveled to California with a musician who claimed to be a Spanish Count. They married in 1920 - she was 30 years his senior - and their tumultuous relationship captivated the press. Apparently, she did not have time to participate in suffrage activities.
In February 1921, Kate's only son was killed in a California car accident and was buried in Reno. Later that year, Kate sold her Nevada holdings and settled in Southern California. Her divorce from the faux Count was finalized in 1924, but the marriage to a foreign national had taken away her U.S. citizenship. She was repatriated by formal petition in 1938. Katherine Imogene Bacon Nixon D'Aleria died suddenly on October 5, 1939, and was cremated in Southern California.
U.S. Federal Census, Naturalization Records, California Death Records, Ancestry.com
Daily Appeal (Carson City, Nevada), February 28, 1920.
Nevada State Journal, February 5, 1887; January 15, 2021.
Oakland Tribune, May 6, 1920.
Reno Evening Gazette, April 13, 1912; June 5, 1912; December 10, 1921; October 27, 1939
The Sacramento Bee, November 10, 1913.
Austin E. Hutcheson, ed, "The Story of the Nevada Equal Suffrage Campaign: Memoirs of Anne Martin," University of Nevada Bulletin, 1948