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Grace Bacon papers

Identifier: MS 0611

Scope and Contents

The Grace Mabel Bacon Papers consist of letters and other writings by her, biographical information, and several photographs of her. Of note are excerpts of letters that she wrote while serving with the American Red Cross in France near the end of World War I in 1918. These letters discuss her voyage to France aboard the ship "Vestris" in 1918 during which there was an outbreak of influenza. Ruth MacGregor, Mount Holyoke College Class of 1910, died on board. Bacon also describes her experiences in St. Nazaire, France, working with Belle Mead, Mount Holyoke College Class of 1900, for the American Red Cross. The two women cared for local children and German prisoners of war working for them. They provided thousands of refugees with food and clothing. The excerpts also describe Bacon's work after the war in Coblenz, Germany, where she taught German to American soldiers for the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Army Educational Commission of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F). Bacon's writings include newspaper articles, a syllabus for the German classes Bacon taught for the A.E.F, and an obituary for Mount Holyoke College Professor Ellen C. Hinsdale. One article describes her experience in Munich, Germany at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Two 1919 articles describe her work teaching German for the A.E.F. after the war. Biographical information includes newspaper clippings, biographical notes, obituaries, and a tribute. The obituaries include ones for Bacon's siblings, Ruth Grey Bacon, George A. Bacon, and Frances Gertrude Bacon Ruggles. Obituaries for Grace Mabel Bacon herself are also included. The tribute is by Anna L. Bates, Mount Holyoke College Class of 1901. The photographs consists of formal portraits and snapshots dating from about 1900 to 1943. These images include what is probably her senior photograph as a Mount Holyoke student, a photograph of Bacon in her Red Cross uniform and a snapshot of Bacon with her dog, probably taken in 1943.


  • Creation: ca. 1901-1967

Conditions Governing Access


Biographical Note

Grace Mabel Bacon was born on April 27, 1878 in Northampton, Massachusetts to Charles E. Bacon, a grocer, and Georgiana T. Leach Bacon. After attending high school in Springfield, Massachusetts, she went to Mount Holyoke College, where she majored in German with minors in Latin and history. She graduated in 1901, then received her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She studied at the University of Berlin, at Munich and at Freiburg, and did summer work at Harvard, Columbia and the Sorbonne. She taught briefly at Franklin High School in New Hampshire and Ypsilanti High School in Michigan. In 1906 she returned to Mount Holyoke to teach German and became associate professor in 1914. From September 1918 to June 1919 Bacon worked in Europe during World War I. She originally worked for the Red Cross in France in 1918 and from 1918-1919 she organized and taught German classes for the Army Education Corps of the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.), an organization created by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) for American soldiers occupying different parts of Europe after World War I. From 1924-1925 Bacon was head of the French department at Walnut Hill School in Natick, Massachusetts. For the next three years she was professor and head of the German Department at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. In 1928 Bacon rejoined the Mount Holyoke faculty, becoming a professor in 1931. She travelled throughout Germany and conducted student tours in Europe. In 1943 she retired, residing in South Hadley, Massachusetts until her death on September 21, 1967, at the age of eighty-nine.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 half Hollinger box)

Language of Materials



Bacon, Grace Mabel, 1878-1976; College teacher. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1901. Mount Holyoke College faculty member, 1906-1943. Papers contain letters, writings, biographical information, and photographs. Focusing on her work with the Red Cross in France during World War I and her experience teaching German to American soldiers.


Arranged in 4 series. Series 1. Correspondence. Series 2. Writings. Series 3. Biographical Material. Series 4. Photographs.

Summary of Correspondence

Grace Bacon, while Associate Professor of German at Mount Holyoke, went abroad with the Red Cross in 1918 under the sponsorship of the College Chapter of the Red Cross. The collection includes typed extracts of her letters written between September 28, 1918 and January 17, 1919.

The S. S. Vestra, "a little gem of boat," sailed from Quebec with 130 Red Cross workers, most of whom were social workers, and a "great cargo of Argentine beef." Tragedy struck soon when passengers came down with flu and pneumonia. By October 7th, they were "adrift in an icy ocean," amid high seas and gale winds, separated from their convoy. No doctor was on board and the epidemic was spreading; many were desperately ill. The next day Ruth MacGregor, Mount Holyoke Class of 1910, died and was buried at sea. Fearing attack, everyone had to remain fully dressed in their heaviest clothing day and night.

They reached Paris safely on October 15th where "sadness reigns" and "heavy mourning everywhere." After getting settled and finding housing, she was sent (November 5th) to St. Nazaire to salvage a warehouse full of Red Cross clothing and supplies, damaged in transit by fire in the hold of a ship. They sorted in a school building, recruited women refugees and children to wash and dry and supervised prisoners of war in the packing of 50 cases. Attached to the excerpts, there is a copy of an article in a Red Cross bulletin entitled Mount Holyoke Girls Tell Story of Salvage Work...Saved Miss Bacon and Miss Meade (who was Belle Meade, Mount Holyoke Class of 1900, a friend of Grace). From there they went next to Augers to assist in the distribution of food and clothing to 35,000 refugees, most of whom had lost their homes and who were ill clothed and undernourished. Officials did not "anticipate the wants of men", wrote Grace, so nothing was available for returning prisoners of war who arrived in rags, many in the last stages of TB. The most they could offer them were small squares of wool intended as scarfs for women.\tab It was grim work but Grace felt the experience gave her first-hand knowledge of the terrible privation and suffering of populations caught in war.

Red Cross work was to close January 1, so Belle and Grace had to decide whether to return home or to work in the Red Cross canteens. Grace decided on canteen work; it is "one more experience" she wrote, and she was assigned to the Gare du Nord, where she was head waiter on the day shift with 15 girls under her charge. She found her knowledge of French a great asset since she had to deal with the kitchen staff and explain to French soldiers who came by thafthe canteen was intended only for American soldiers.

Nine days later she found the job for which she was perfected qualified. Up until then she had felt ill equipped for the work she was doing. She was to set up the teaching of German at Army Post Schools. under the YMCA Army Educational Commission. Actually she "walked around" to headquarters in Paris and introduced herself; German was not in the curriculum. A description of this assignment is contained in an article she wrote for the Springfield Republican of April 23, 1919. She was sent to Coblenz where 17,000 American soldiers were quartered in homes. Meals were served in 15 or more canteens operated by the Y and between 2,000 and 3,000 soldiers attended evening classes studying a wide variety of subjects. There were no books and the Syllabus which Grace prepared is included in the collection.

CR Ludwig

July 1995

Bacon Papers, ca. 1901-1967.
Edited Full Draft
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Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA