Delia Bacon, the daughter of missionary David Bacon, was born in Tallmadge, Ohio, on February 2, 1811, but she did not grow up there; her family moved to Hartford, Connecticut, when she was a year old. She received a year of formal education at Catherine Beecher's academy, and started teaching at age 15. She had six siblings, the eldest of which was Leonard Bacon, Yale graduate, noted Congregational minister in New Haven, Connecticut, and leader of the colonization movement.
Delia became an esteemed lecturer, and frequently delivered educational talks to women on a variety of subjects. In 1847, her brother Leonard accused fellow preacher Alexander MacWhorter of breaking an engagement to Delia and defaming her; the resulting controversy divided religious opinion in New Haven, Connecticut, and eventually caused her to move to England, where she spent several years researching the authorship of William Shakespeare's plays. Believing his work to be incorrectly attributed, she published The Philosophy of Shakespeare's Plays Unfolded in 1857 but suffered from a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter. During her life, she made the acquaintance of several prominent American authors, and may have served as a model for Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hester Prynne. She died on September 2, 1859.
Katharine Bacon, a daughter of Delia's brother Leonard, married Eugene Smith in February 1872; they had at least four children, Leonard, Winthrop, Helen, and Alice.