Clara Bacon in the Goucher Alumnae Quarterly

We give a number of extracts from the Goucher Alumnae Quarterly which give information about Clara Latimer Bacon. One was written by her while all the others are about her. We present them in chronological order.

Before presenting the extracts let us say a few words about their authors and also about some of the names that are mentioned.
Marguerite Lehr (1898-1987), the author of 2., was an undergraduate at Goucher College where she was taught by Clara Bacon. She has a biography in this Archive.
Florence P Lewis (1877-1964), the author of 5., was an undergraduate at the University of Texas and studied for an M.A. at Radcliffe College which was awarded in 1906. She earned her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University in astronomy and mathematics in 1913. She was a colleague of Clara Bacon at Goucher College from 1908.
"Ida" is Ida Lindsay who was Clara Bacon's servant from the time she moved to Baltimore City. She was with Clara Bacon for the rest of her life and, although her servant, was her companion and friend.
The reference to "Katy Hooper" is to Catherine Hooper Hall, known as "Katy" where many departments held lectures.
"Donnybrook" is a reference to Donnybrook Fair, a publication by the final year class at Goucher College.

  1. The President's Statement at the Commencement Exercises, Goucher Alumnae Quarterly (July 1931), 59-60.

    The present year is made notable by the establishment of the Alumnae Fund, a scheme for systematically receiving from alumnae of the College gifts for presentation to the College at Commencement. ... The College is under deep obligation to the alumnae for their generosity and loyalty in thus setting up a procedure which provides income from a kind of living endowment. ... To establish a fund, the Agnes and Clara Bacon Fund, the income of which shall be used ultimately for salaries for teachers and/or for free scholarships, and during the life-time of Professor Clara Latimer Bacon to be received by her, from an anonymous donor, fifty thousand dollars.

  2. Marguerite Lehr, Clara Latimer Bacon, Goucher Alumnae Quarterly (July 1934), 3-4.

    Four college years are so full, so varied, yet taken for granted in some aspects at the day of graduation; the very multiplicity of satisfactions may defy analysis at such close view. The stretch of fifteen years away from college brings out essential factors of the experience in a manner unquestionable in its validity; the complex of associations that means "Goucher" has its anatomy laid bare by busy years spent in various and perhaps unforeseen ways. For mathematics majors, then, a fifteenth reunion in this year just had to be attended; this year belonged to one of the people who means Goucher to them - to Clara Latimer Bacon.
    The bare facts are there for those who want them; even in their cold succession of dates they give a typical picture - her teaching experience before coming to Goucher as an instructor, her work for the M.A. at Chicago (which belongs with Bolza's name!) and the close association with Hopkins, beginning with her work for the Ph.D. there. For those students who majored in mathematics this relation with the Johns Hopkins University was of great importance. Advanced work sometimes took particular form because of a senior's plan to continue her work there. For example, I planned to do so, until another instance of Dr Bacon's unceasing interest in the careers of all her students changed that plan more radically than she (I think!) or I foresaw. As I now look back, from the point of view of teacher instead of student, on the mathematics curriculum, I am amazed that a department which had to handle large Freshman sections of wide range in ability and training could have given such scope to students who hoped to go on. I remember with pride that when, at Dr Bacon's suggestion, I presented the record of my courses in application for a job to the author of one of the texts we had worked with, she commented immediately on the unusual mathematical training and laid plans to capitalise it. Contacts not only with Hopkins but with other neighbouring institutions have been maintained through Dr Bacon's interest in the Mathematical Association of America. She was particularly active in the Maryland District of Columbia Virginia section, and as Chairman has presided over some of its annual meetings. I'm not sure she wasn't in the chair about two years ago when one of her more recent students presented a paper.

    The four college years for this particular math major are now a curious mixture of memories of Dr Bacon - of "Freshman Analyt" (in Katy Hooper, of course), boards full of figures for "projective," deep despair over Invariants, and after-class consultations on Dr Scott's book, (those sessions known as the after-math); but also picnics at Herring Run, tea at 2316 with Ida reassuringly at the door, and of 1919's Donnybrook with its page "There are smiles" headed by Dr Bacon herself. The fifteen years since have added new details, but they have given colour to the old ones, showing them as only part of what Dr Bacon has brought to year after year of students. Going back to college means seeing Dr Bacon if only for a second, to say how work is going; to have the spur of her satisfaction if all is going well, and the support of her understanding if the road is hard. When Ida says "Yes, miss, come right in." the returning alumna is almost sure to meet the departing freshman who simply had to have a little extra help to get over a hard stretch, and it is most clear proof of Dr Bacon's peculiar place in the lives of her students that the former student feels just as free to take her time as the Freshman!

    The remembering makes clear how much we have asked of her. With such demands made, she has earned the vacation she is about to begin, and part of the hoping goes toward the next fifteen months, with the summer in England and an interlude of Italy and Switzerland. I shall think of her in Rome, in a room looking out on Santa Maria Maggiore, or walking the little street that I walked to the University, as the unforeseen end of the plan she started. I shall not know how many more of you will think of her in places that you know best, but I do know this: we shall be glad when we can come back to see her as she has asked, when we take hold of the little iron railing at 2316 North Calvert, and press the bell, hoping to hear Ida say, "Yes, miss, come right in!"

  3. C L Bacon, Footloose and Fancy Free, Goucher Alumnae Quarterly (February 1935), 18-20.

    Rome, Italy
    December 13, 1934

    Dear Goucher Alumnae: Six months ago today so many of you at the boat sent me off with good wishes. I think those wishes were magic, for so far my months abroad have been pleasant indeed.

    The first few weeks I spent at Crosby Hall in old Chelsea. I was delighted to find myself in a neighbourhood so interesting. I lived just round the corner from Carlyle's home and on the same street where once lived Whistler, Turner, Rosetti, and Henry James. Going further back, my home, Crosby Hall, was in the very garden of Sir Thomas More, whom I came to regard with increasing affection as I contrasted him with men of his time such as Henry the Eighth and Woolsey. And I ate every day in the beautiful old banquet hall of Sir John Crosby. On the other hand, a plate on the door of my room which told me that it was furnished by Miss Carey Thomas, brought me back in a comforting way to my own time and country.

    It was my first visit to England and I was glad to learn something of London in a leisurely way, to have time to reread English history in its own setting. I was tremendously impressed with the age of England. Most things seemed to have happened and much of the most interesting part of London to have been built before America was discovered. But everything is relative. I find here in Italy that many things happened before England was discovered. So perhaps there is hope for us who are still so young.

    One of the high spots of my experience in London was a visit to Parliament arranged through the courtesy of the English Speaking Union and a member of Parliament to whom they introduced me. I was fortunately in the House of Lords just at the time of the ceremony of bringing in the King's assent to the bills passed by Parliament at that session. As in our country the President's signature is necessary, as in England the King must sign each bill before it becomes law. The lords were in their places and a large committee from the House of Commons stood at the back of the room, where the three royal commissioners, in scarlet robes, entered. Two clerks, with wigs which reminded me of the ones we used to make as children when we had made a rich find of clean, white shavings at a carpenter shop, stood one in each aisle at the front of the room. One of them turned towards the House and read the number and name of the bill, then the other turned and said each time in old Norman French, "The King wills it." Norman French is always used in this ceremony just as it has been since the time of the Norman Conquest, when it was the language of the court. There was absolute quiet and the close attention and I was much impressed with the dignity and solemnity of the ceremony. These old traditions, treasured as they are, must have a stabilising effect on the country. I ignorantly asked my host if the King had the right of veto as our President has. He replied a little hesitantly, "Well, yes, he has the right, but it is a right which has not been exercised since the time of Queen Anne.

    Early in August I left London and was joined by a Baltimore friend, Miss Edith Howland, at Malvern for the dramatic festival. Malvern is beautifully situated and the festival was very satisfactory. We attended six excellent plays admirably presented. It was reassuring to see plays successful that are so different from much that we see on the modern stage both in America and England.

    We made Cheltenham our headquarters for the next two or three weeks, taking daily trips through the Cotswolds and to the lovely old English towns and beautiful Gothic churches - too Hereford, Tewkesbury, Chipping Campden, Broadway, Gloucester, Stratford-on-Avon (where we saw Much Ado About Nothing given in the new Shakespeare theatre), Warwick, and then to Wells, Tintern Abbey and many other places. We stayed at Wells three days in the Vicar's Close and I think, for this reason, I loved Well's Cathedral most of all, though each had a beauty of its own.

    At Shrewsbury where we stopped on our way to Scotland we found our ideal verger who knew and loved every inch of his old, beautiful church and made it mean so much more to us than if we had tried to see it by ourselves.

    Then we had a wonderful month in Scotland. In Edinburgh we attended the annual service on the anniversary of the unveiling of Robert Tait Mckenzie's very beautiful memorial in the Princess Gardens, given by Americans of Scotch birth or blood in memory of the Scotch lads who died in the World War. After a most interesting week in Edinburgh, we went to Callander for two weeks. From there we motored over that beautiful country that Scott had made so full of interest for us all. We drove through the Trossachs and the Rob Roy country along those lovely lochs, among them Loch Rannoch, which has special association with President Robertson. I saw his name so frequently in that country and often wondered if it belonged to kinsmen of his.

    We were fortunate to be in Inverness at the time of the Northern games, where we saw men in kilts and heard bagpipes all day and saw marvellous feats of physical skill and strength.

    At Aberdeen, friends of Miss Howland took us for a delightful day's motor drive around Balmoral Castle and we were happy to have a very close view of King George, Queen Mary, the Princess Marina and other members of the royal party as they came out of the little Scotch Presbyterian Church at Crathie. It was interesting to me to find that as the King is the head of the church he is a Presbyterian in Scotland though of course an Episcopalian, or rather a member of the Church of England, when he is in England. He certainly is much loved in both places. When I remarked upon this to a Scotch woman she said, "Why not? He is a Stuart." But I think the King is loved for his own personal qualities. I was impressed, when during the drought in London an order appeared in the papers forbidding the watering of gardens, to see the next day that the King had forbidden his gardeners to water any of the royal gardens.

    We stopped another week in Edinburgh on our way back and spent the first three weeks of October in London again. During that time I saw Srowhena Edwards, Goucher '33, who had lunch with me. She seemed well and happy and very loyal to Goucher. She had a secretarial job but was studying pharmacy at night school.

    I attended an interesting service at Westminster Abbey the day before the opening of the law courts, which judges of the Supreme Court and members of the legal profession attended in a body in their court costumes. I was also present at another religious service in All Hallows Church, to which the members of the grain commission came in a body headed by the Lord Mayor of London in full regalia, with his sword which was placed on the ancient sword rest during the service. The clergyman preached from the text, "Give us our daily bread." Both of these were week day services and they tended to impress me with the religious side of the English people.

    Finally, with some trepidation I must admit, I made the journey from London to Siena, Italy, where I spent six delightful weeks and where I should have loved to stay all winter. In the first place I found there, in the Palazza Ravizza, my ideal pension. I saw in the guest book that some years back out Dr Lord, the former Dean of Goucher, had written of it "A dream come true," and I quite agree with her. It is pleasing for me to know that a Goucher alumna, Dr Caroline Towles, helped to make it so. Then, too, Siena itself is such a charming mediaeval city and not too big. In a little while you can wander all over it by yourself and stop when you wish at a little or a great church to see a piece of beautiful old Sienese art. In between its narrow old streets you would see framed again and again the Cathedral tower or that of the Palazza Publico, or you would unexpectedly come out onto a broad view of gardens and fields with white oxen ploughing in them or of olive orchards, and always in the distance hills, each crowned with a monastery or villa with cypress trees or another town. It is very easy (except on the purse) to take delightful motor trips to other interesting places: to Osservance, where I saw one of the most beautiful of the Andrea della Robbia's, his Crowning of the Virgin; to Monte Olivetto, rich in Sodom's best frescoes; to Perugia and Assisi, both quaint and beautiful and filled with old masterpieces of art, the latter replete with memories of St Francis; and to San Gimignano, with its thirteen towers left from the seventy-six that once adorned it. As I looked at these grim towers and read the histories of these cities continually fighting each other, I was encouraged by the thought that it is no longer necessary for every family to have a tower from which to spy out the enemy and that cities do live in close proximity without fighting, to hope that the time may really come when wars will cease between nations.

    So I should have loved to linger on indefinitely at Siena, but impelled by the desire for a continuing education, I broke away and came to Rome, which is bewilderingly big in contrast to Siena though full of interesting places. I am slowly learning to find my way about and to select those things I cannot afford to miss.

    I am even thinking of going to Palestine with two interesting women I met at Crosby Hall, for the month of January.

    In all my wanderings, my beloved clock, the gift of the Alumnae, has been my constant companion. It keeps perfect time and I think that it and two travelling companions were always a half hour ahead of time, had a wholesome moral influence on me. I have certainly enjoyed and appreciated it.

  4. J M Taylor, To the Goucher Alumnae Quarterly, Goucher Alumnae Quarterly (Spring 1948), 18.

    The Wellesley Club of Baltimore at its meeting April 15, 1948, feeling deeply its loss in the passing of Dr Clara Latimer Bacon and the privilege of her friendship and loyal membership since the inception of the Club, ordered the following resolution sent to Goucher College, to Wellesley College and to her devoted companion, Mrs Ida Lindsey, and spread upon its minutes:
    Be resolved that, in the death of Miss Clara Latimer Bacon, the Wellesley Club has lost a member endeared to us by her self-effacing modesty and by her interest in and charity toward her fellow members. and admired for her scholarship and services for the advancement of the higher education of women, one who will ever remain an inspiration to us by the loyalty she showed to the motto of her Alma Mater" Non Ministrari Sed Ministrare.

    Be it further resolved that in memory of Miss Bacon and of her deep interest in assisting students to receive higher education, we send to Wellesley College for scholarship endowment our two remaining government bonds.

    Jessie Miller Taylor
    President of the Baltimore Wellesley Club.
  5. Florence P Lewis, Clara Latimer Bacon: Aug 23, 1866-April 14, 1948, Goucher Alumnae Quarterly (Spring 1948), 19-22.

    The passing of a brilliant and complex mentality is often the occasion for conflicting interpretations and evaluations. It is a striking fact that persons who knew Clara Latimer Bacon well, or came under her influence, are in complete agreement as to the essential qualities of her remarkable personality. The simple sturdy honesty of her mind and her deep-seated humanity were there for all to see. We do not dispute about an oak tree, or beneficent spring rains, or granite hills. We note and accept.

    Miss Bacon was born in a rural community not far from Galesburg, Illinois, in 1866. After graduating from Hedding College and a brief period of teaching, she went to Wellesley College where she received the A.B. degree in 1890. She taught again near home, and was then selected by Dr Goucher to be Instructor in Mathematics at the Woman's College of Baltimore, now Goucher. In 1897 she came with her family to Baltimore where they bought a house near the college on Calvert Street, In 1911 she received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University, became chairman of her department, and continued to teach at Goucher until her retirement in 1934. The family, consisting of Clara, her sister Agnes, and their mother, was soon augmented by the incomparably efficient and faithful servant, Ida Lindsay. These four constituted "the Bacons," and the house on Calvert Street was for many years the centre of their kindly and generous hospitality. Miss bacon died there attended to the last hour by Ida, the friend who loved her. As they grew old together, the mutual dependence of these two was something beautiful to see. Their association had lasted fifty years.

    With Miss Bacon's own account of her early life in mind it is easy to see how deeply she was rooted in her background. People in rural Illinois in the 1870's were still close to their pioneering ancestors - people to whom hardship was the expected thing, to be overcome by self-denial and cheerful courage. The Bacon family life was definitely under the influence of Methodist Christianity. Dominated by a wise and good woman, it was pervaded by the spirit of cheerful endeavour, fairness, generosity, and loving consideration towards others. Self-discipline was a vital concern. Miss Bacon once confessed: "No one knows how hard it is for me to be generous. I am naturally stingy." (This will be amazing to those who had experience of her generosity.) Adherence to religious faith and to the church, self-reliance, physical vitality common sense, and a strong social consciousness - these were natural out growths of her background.

    From a number of Miss Bacon's friends among the faculty and the alumnae have come appreciations of her teaching and of herself. The first four of the following paragraphs are taken from comments on her teaching.
    "I thought at the time that she was the best teacher I had ever known, and after a period of thirty years I am still of this opinion. Mastery of the subject of course she had, but she had also the faculty of simplifying it by stripping it of non-essentials and exposing it with a clearness and directness which was beautiful to see. But what made her so unusual were her personal qualities - a great sympathy for all her students, good and poor, which gave her keen insight into the difficulties of each. Above all were her purity and goodness of heart. Truly, one is better for simply having come into contact with her."

    "Miss Clara Bacon was one of the best teachers I ever had in the clearness with which she presented mathematics, her understanding of the student's point of view, and her patience. I do not know adequate superlative adjectives to express the wonderful spirit she embodied."

    "She believed in us so simply and so deeply that we could not disappoint her. When she felt that circumstances prevented us from doing all she hoped, she tried to change the circumstances. It was her support that made graduate study possible for me. Her patience and understanding as a teacher opened up the beauty of mathematics. For many years her faith in all of us made life seem so good."

    "She was the only teacher of mathematics I ever had who made me like the subject. One episode in that class I recall as if it were yesterday. A girl had been caught cheating in examination. Dean Van Meter appeared, solemnly addressed the class on the subject of integrity, and called on the unhappy culprit to confess. Miss Bacon was standing by, her face full of pity, and suffering as much as the wretched girl herself. Her interest in us was a constant stimulus, but even this could not create talent where talent was not. It hurt me to find that one so kind could bring herself to write Failed on my examination paper, but I learned that while she could be so kind she could also be firm. It was a wholesome tonic. Her influence on the many generations of Goucher students who came under her tutelage must have borne fruit in a variety of ways. Her passing marks the end of an era in the history of the college."
    A faculty member and friend comments on the valuable contribution which Dr Bacon made to committee discussions by her sane and balanced judgement. "As we were fumbling around towards the close of a discussion, she often ended it by a good common-sense motion, leaving the rest of us wondering why we had not thought of that. She was valued most of all for qualities of character. That word sums up Dr Bacon as a person - character, with the golden threads of integrity, honesty of word and thought, and tolerance. Even from her sick-bed came unwavering courtesy and appreciation of every kindness."

    Another colleague writes: "Few people have given a more constant and loyal devotion to Goucher College. To the amazement of her colleagues, Miss Bacon never lost her keen zest in the whole round of college activities, from Matriculation Vespers all the way to Commencement Exercises. The secret of this unflagging delight lay, I believe, in her real interest in every one of her students, and in her warm friendly feelings towards her colleagues."

    Many people in the college knew that Miss Bacon's friendly feeling was not merely a matter of sentiment but often took substantial form. From an administrative officer comes this: "In committees Dr Bacon fought for the individual who was not brilliant but who was potentially a good and useful citizen, and her judgement was usually sound. It was understood that a student was good, but not quite good enough to receive a scholarship, might receive financial help from her. We felt it wise to be on guard against letting her hear of too many such cases." A prominent alumna writes: "A volume could be written about her. Her teaching was marked by maintenance of the highest intellectual as well as well as spiritual standards, tempered by warm humanity. Her generosity, though very liberal, was not lavish or sentimental. It was carefully planned, and based on considerations of good sense."

    One of the "happy breed" of young biologists, who came to teach at Goucher and lived in sequence on the Bacon's top floor, writes as follows: "Everyone who came in contact with her must have felt her complete sincerity, her fairmindedness, her deep and abiding faith in people. And with it all Miss Bacon was nobody's fool. Like the good Christian she was, she judged all men, whether college presidents of housemaids, by a single standard, the individual worth of each person as an individual, regardless of racial, economic or academic labels. For her a college degree was a sign of what you might hope to find in a person, not a coin valuable for itself. So well grounded in inspired common sense was Miss Bacon's understanding of the meaning and value of a liberal education that I have often quote her to unenlightened students."

    Expressing his happy recollection of the traditional annual dinner given to the mutual friends of Ida and Miss Bacon, he writes: "These affairs had a special flavour that none of the fifteen or more participants will ever forget - part family reunion, part dinner party in the grand manner, part symposium on the state of science, letters, and politics." Another of that happy breed considers that the privilege of living on that same top floor was one of the bright spots of his stay in Baltimore.

    The final word must go to Ida. "Miss Clara never sees dust. Why should she? That is my department, not hers. Her department is addematics and high ideals."

    No picture of Miss Bacon would be complete without mention of her sense of humour. She could tell a joke on herself with great enjoyment, and her inimitable manner of telling her famous Ida-stories was known up and down the land. Here is one of which she was fond - but one among a host. Bright and early on the morning after she received the Ph.D. degree Ida was found giving an extra scrubbing to the front steps. In response to gentle remonstrance, Ida replied, "Miss Clara, these steps has to be clean. Now you are a Doctor, it do call for that."

    Mention should also be made of Miss Bacon's fifteen months abroad just after her retirement. Her sister Agnes, previously the leader in their travels, had died in 1929. Miss Bacon was desperately afraid to make the trip alone, and went only because she had promised Agnes that she would go. She said later that she had never been so unhappy in her life as when the ship pulled out from Baltimore harbour. Needless to say she made friends wherever she went, visited England, Italy, Egypt, and Palestine, and looked back on the experience with the greatest satisfaction.

    Miss Bacon had executive ability. She was at one time president of the Maryland-Virginia section of the Mathematical Association of America, and served for many years on the College Entrance Examination Board. She was a devoted church worker; she joined and actively supported various organisations for civic and social betterment. This she did from conviction, but never was duty more palatable, for she loved to know people and to be with them. She was a successful president of the College Club, the Baltimore branch of the A.A.U.W. A fellow member remarks: "Under her presidency we worked as we had never worked before, not because she drove us but because we loved her."

    Clara Latimer Bacon will be remembered for her faith in the good in human beings, her power of encouragement and inspiration towards individual and moral achievement, he warm and active sympathies, her cheerfulness, her humour, her wholesome joy in living, her honesty and breadth of mind, her inspired common sense. Her faith was a flourishing tall tree, her kindness as reviving showers, her adherence to her own ideals of right was of granite. Her memory will live in the Goucher community a very long time. It will be a fragrant and happy memory.

  6. Bacon House (formerly, North House), Goucher Alumnae Quarterly (Spring 1958), 2.

    Clara Latimer Bacon, Professor of Mathematics, combined in herself deeply sympathetic and friendly feelings for her students with a brilliant and complex mind. Always able to make the most difficult work lucid, and always a part of every college activity, she was respected by the scientific world and beloved by her students. She taught at Goucher from 1897 to 1934.

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