Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Alice Louise Reynolds, 1873-1938
By Ann Engar, Professor (Lecturer), Honors College and LEAP Program, University of Utah
Professor, suffragist, writer, speaker
Alice Louise Reynolds was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on April 1, 1873. She was the fourth child of George and Mary Ann Tuddenham Reynolds, who had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in London and emigrated to Utah in 1864-65. An intellectual and art-lover, her father became secretary to five Presidents of the Church, beginning with Brigham Young, served in Church leadership as one of the seven members of the First Council of Seventy, and was manager of the Salt Lake Theater.
A precocious child, Reynolds started school at age 4. She attended two different private schools and then the Twentieth Ward District School. Though she called her childhood "happy," she had two severe challenges. When she was six, her father was found guilty of violating the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act and was imprisoned for two years in the Utah Penitentiary. When Reynolds was twelve, her mother died in childbirth. Four months later, Reynolds moved away from home to start school in Provo, Utah, at Brigham Young Academy, a school to which she would dedicate her life.
After brief intervals at the Salt Lake Academy and Brigham Young College in Logan, she returned to Brigham Young Academy from January 1889 to June 1890. Under President Karl Maeser's inspiration and leadership, she studied reading, history, geography, theology, science, and philosophy. She taught school for two years and then was invited by Maeser's successor, Benjamin Cluff Jr., to become the first literature professor at Brigham Young Academy. Cluff asked her to study at University of Michigan to prepare for this role.
At the age of 17, Reynolds had become self-supporting and did not have the funds to go to Michigan. She took out a loan from the Church School System and studied at Ann Arbor under eminent professors, including John Dewey. At age 21 she became a faculty member at Brigham Young Academy in Provo, the first woman to teach both high school and college subjects. She received her Bachelor of Pedagogy in 1895 and her Bachelor of Arts in 1910. Brigham Young Academy became Brigham Young University in 1903. She became a full Professor of English Literature in 1911, the second woman in Utah after Maud May Babcock to be promoted to a full professorship. A popular professor, she taught courses in Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, American Literature, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Browning until her death.
Reynolds advocated for women's suffrage and the full participation of women in public life and affairs. A member of the NAWSA, she attended the national suffrage convention in Washington D.C. in 1916 and remained in Washington to work for Congressional passage of the Susan B. Anthony Federal Amendment for Women's Suffrage (later the 19th Amendment). Her principal job was to lobby senators. In St. Louis in 1919, she similarly attended the national suffrage convention when the franchise for women in Missouri was passed. She said women should sit on school and health boards, on the boards of institutions, and in legislative and congressional halls.
In 1920, Reynolds served as one of Utah's eight delegates to the National Democratic convention in San Francisco, where she made the seconding speech for William G. McAdoo, candidate to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Running to become the vice-presidential candidate, Governor Sam V. Stewart of Montana, after hearing Reynolds' eloquence, asked her to second his nomination, which she did. Both men were unsuccessful, McAdoo because he was blocked by his father-in-law Woodrow Wilson; but the 19th Amendment was supported and women took prominent roles in the convention.
In 1923, Reynolds became the editor of The Relief Society Magazine, the women's journal of her church. Simultaneously she served on the Relief Society General Board. She wrote articles on women in higher education, scientific research, and women in the Middle East. In 1930, she returned to full-time teaching at BYU. In her lifetime she traveled to Europe four times and did graduate study at University of Chicago, Cornell, University of California-Berkeley, and Columbia, as well as in London and Paris.
Perhaps Reynolds's greatest achievement was building the collections of the library at Brigham Young University. Chair of the library committee for 19 years and member for 35 years, she procured the Whitecotton Library for the university, 250 of which became the Alice Louise Reynolds Collection. She and her family and friends donated 250 more. On her 49th birthday in 1922, women's groups gave over 500 more books in her honor. In all, she personally donated 1,000 books from her own library. By the end of her life, the Alice Louise Reynolds Collection consisted of over 7,000 volumes; the library itself had grown to around 100,000 volumes.
Reynolds belonged to and held leadership positions in several women's groups; and, in admiration of her, in 1932, her former students organized the Alice Louise Reynolds Club, a club for cultural and social interaction. The club grew to seventeen chapters and over 300 members throughout the state of Utah.
In November 1938, Reynolds collapsed in her classroom. She died of cancer December 5th. Her friend Amy Brown Lyman paid tribute to her: "She was a woman's woman. She loved and admired women and worked for their progress and advancement."
Lyman, Amy Brown. A Lighter of Lamps: The Life Story of Alice Louise Reynolds. Alice Louise Reynolds Club, 1947.
McClellan, Jeff. "A Lingering Influence: Top 10 BYU Professors," BYU Magazine, winter 1999. https://magazine.byu.edu
Reynolds, Alice Louise. "Autobiographical Notes." 1935-1938. Notebook, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
Reynolds, Alice Louise. "Biography of George Reynolds," ca. 1920. BYU Special Collections.
Woodger, Mary Jane. "'A Lighter of Lamps'": Alice Louise Reynolds," Women of Faith in the Latter Days. Ed. Brittany Chapman Nash and Richard E. Turley Jr. volume 4, Deseret Book, pp. 181-93.