Partner Alice Walker
University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ
Royal Holloway College, University of London
Janet Ruth Bacon (October 26, 1891 – January 25, 1965) was Principal of Royal Holloway College, University of London from 1935-44. She fatally confused public and private, gender and power when she appointed her own 'closest' friend, Alice Walker, to high office in the college. For Bacon's over-reliance on Walker's advice, to the exclusion of other members of her staff, cost her their loyalty, and eventually forced her to resign from the principalship.
She was the daughter of Richard Bacon, a barrister, and Fanny Gray. She was educated at Oxford High School and Girton College, Cambridge where she read Classics.
She first taught at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham during the First World War. She then was a lecturer on Classics at Girton becoming Director of Studies in Classics there from 1925-35. In 1925 she published The Voyage of the Argonauts, an authority on the subject. She was appointed as Principal of Royal Holloway College unanimously by the governors as successor to Miss Ellen Charlotte Higgins. The 50th anniversary of the college opening was celebrated in her tenure with a visit from Queen Mary. This was in 1937 as King George V had died in 1936 the anniversary year, a year of Royal mourning. During the 1940s, she was instrumental in protecting Royal Holloway's Victorian art collection, donated by founder Thomas Holloway. As principal, she opposed the recommendation of a college committee that wanted to dispose of or give away much of the collection, at a time when Victorian art was considered of poor quality. She was principal during the Second World War when part of the college was occupied by the women's ATS Officer Cadets' Training Unit (OCTU). The stress of war-time forced her to resign on the grounds of ill-health but it was clear that she understood she had failed. One of her last responsibilities was as a member of the Post-War Policy Committee of the college. She disagreed with the majority on the committee and her failure to convince her colleagues added to her sense of failure as principal. One of the proposals agreed was an intention for Royal Holloway College to become co-educational. This later began in 1945 with the admission of men postgraduates and then in 1965 with male undergraduates. She was succeeded in the last year of war by Miss Fanny Street as Acting Principal.
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