Lucille Bailey Conger

Students at Henderson House

Students at Henderson House, purchased with the help of Conger in 1945

Lucille Bailey Conger was born in Leslie, Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1904. She had a short teaching career in Owosso and Sterling, Michigan before her marriage in 1910 to a prominent newspaper man, who specialized in Russian news. After her marriage, she became deeply involved with alumnae affairs at the University of Michigan. Eventually, she became the Alumnae Secretary, a position that she held from 1932 until her retirement in 1947.[1] In a 1969 “Birthday Greeting” celebrating the 152nd anniversary of the University of Michigan’s founding, a fellowship fund was announced in her name. The announcement for this fellowship described her as a “dynamic leader” who managed to gather the alumnae into a formal Alumnae Council and increased the prestige of alumnae activities and projects associated with the University.

Among the projects with which Conger was directly involved was the purchase in 1945 of what became the Henderson House, a cooperative residence on Hill Street, which could house up to 30 undergraduate women on campus. Prior to the establishment of the Henderson house, undergraduate women had relied on on-campus housing through the Alumnae House, established in 1917, and by Mary Markley House.[2]

Lucille Bailey Conger’s leadership was of more symbolic importance than the simple purchase of a home. Conger’s efforts were part of a larger struggle by the women to obtain space on campus to meet women’s housing needs as they became a larger demographic in the university. In 1939, Lucille penned a short article on the tenth anniversary of the formal opening of the Michigan League Building as a center for undergraduate women’s activities. Prior to its founding, she wrote, the League office had operated in “an unused corner of the room” in Barbour Gymnasium.[3] The celebration of the League was a celebration of the progress that women had made in expanding the space available to them on campus. It was also an opportunity to fund further growth in the form of the Henderson Fund.

Even with her progress, Lucille Bailey Conger witnessed the Barbour Gymnasium being torn down the year before her retirement. Seeing the hard work of her colleagues reduced to rubble may have caused Lucille Bailey Conger to wonder about the fate of her own projects. She died of cancer at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital on February 22nd, 1965.[4] But the Henderson House, which she put on the campus map, still stands, and her name is immortalized in a house name in Baits Hall.

  1. “Widow of Noted Newsman Dies ANN ARBOR,” Tuesday, February 23, 1965, Traverse City Record Eagle, Traverse City Michigan, p. 9.
  2. “1969 Birthday Greeting Honors Henderson House and Lucille Bailey Conger Fellowship Fund” The Michigan Alumnus (1968) 75: 15.
  3. “Tenth Birthday of League Building to be Celebrated by Alumnae on May 4,” The Michigan Alumnus (1938) 45: 326.
  4. “Widow of Noted Newsman Dies ANN ARBOR,” Tuesday, February 23, 1965, Traverse City Record Eagle, Traverse City Michigan, p. 9.
Image credit:

“Girls at Henderson House,” Alumnae Council Records.