Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Alice Sarah Tyler, 1859-1944

By Amanda Ritter-Maggio, Associate Professor of English, Texarkana College, Texarkana, TX


Photo credit: Alice Sarah Tyler, Sioux City Journal 19 October 1900 (

President, American Library Association; president, Women's Press and Authors' Club of Des Moines; charter member, Decatur Woman's Club; charter member and president, Women's City Club of Cleveland; member, League of Women Voters; member, Citizen's League; member, Daughters of the American Revolution

Alice Sarah Tyler was born in Decatur, Illinois on April 27, 1859 to pioneer Macon County, Illinois residents Rev. John William Tyler, founder of the Christian Church of Central Illinois, and his wife Sarah Roney Tyler. Alice Tyler was the youngest of eleven siblings and three step-siblings. American presidents John Tyler and James Monroe were among her ancestors. Because Rev. Tyler was frequently called away from home on church business, Sarah Tyler managed the family farm on her own.

After graduating from Decatur High School in 1877, Tyler became an apprentice at a small local library in Decatur managed by Richard L. and Alice G. Evans. She enjoyed the work, and, after the deaths of her parents, she decided to attend the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago (later known as the Illinois Library School). She graduated in 1894 and obtained a library assistant position with Cleveland Public Library's Catalog Division in 1895, making her the first university-trained librarian of the Cleveland Public Library. She later moved to Iowa, where she served as secretary of the Iowa State Library Commission from 1900-1913, director of the Iowa Summer Library School at the State University of Iowa from 1901-1912, and served as the editor of the Iowa Library Quarterly from 1901-1913. According to one account, "Under Tyler's leadership, public libraries in Iowa flourished as she oversaw the education of librarians, the expansion of the traveling library system, and the increase of libraries from 41 to 113."

In 1913, Tyler returned to Cleveland to serve as the first director of Western Reserve University's Library School. She was later promoted to Dean of the School of Library Science. She served as president of the Association of American Library Schools from 1918-1919 and was a member of the Ohio Library Association and the Cleveland Library Club. During World War I, Tyler volunteered with the American Library Association library war service staff in Hoboken, New Jersey, preparing and shipping books to American soldiers overseas. In 1920, Tyler was elected the third female president of the American Library Association.

In both Iowa and Ohio, Tyler was a popular and frequent guest lecturer. Having worked in struggling libraries operating in crowded, rented buildings with inadequate support, she advocated for public library funding and mobile libraries She connected with several women's clubs in order to not only promote public libraries, but also to lobby politicians for tax dollars and legislative appropriations for library operations. Many women's clubs and organizations, including those promoting woman suffrage, met at local libraries, so it is no surprise that Tyler became an active member of suffrage organizations. She was likely active in suffrage work at least between 1912 and 1921. She served as president of the Women's Press and Authors' Club of Des Moines, a charter member of the Decatur Woman's Club, a charter member and president of the Women's City Club of Cleveland, and a member of the League of Women Voters and Citizen's League. She was also active in the Daughters of the American Revolution

Upon her retirement in the summer of 1929, Tyler was appointed Dean Emeritus of Western Reserve University, and a scholarship fund was established in her name. At the request of the American Library Association, she began writing a book about library science pedagogy. A life-long learner, she took courses in Greek civilization at Cleveland College in the 1930s.

Tyler never married and had no children; rather, she shared an apartment with longtime colleague Bessie Sargeant-Smith. After a year of declining health, Tyler died on April 18, 1944 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Decatur, Illinois. A Decatur, Illinois Herald and Review tribute to her called her "a leader in her profession. To her is attributed a keen vision, wonderful executive ability, constant enthusiasm, and a magnetic personality which has made her friends everywhere she goes."


"Alice S. Tyler.", 4 January 2021.

"Alice S. Tyler A.L.A. Executive." Herald and Review [Decatur, Illinois] 10 June 1920.,

"Dean of Library School." Decatur Herald 07 July 1929.,

"Decatur Woman in New Position." Herald and Review [Decatur, Illinois] 19 July 1913.,

Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 04 May 2021), memorial page for Alice Sarah Tyler (27 Apr 1859-18 Apr 1944), Find a Grave Memorial ID 32422475, citing Greenwood Cemetery, Decatur, Macon County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave (contributor 8).

Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 04 May 2021), memorial page for Sarah Shannah Roney Tyler (16 Nov 1816-26 Jul 1892), Find a Grave Memorial ID 32422474, citing Greenwood Cemetery, Decatur, Macon County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave (contributor 8).

"Honored by College." The News-Messenger [Fremont, Ohio] 29 April 1938.,

"Iowa Women Whom All Iowa Delights to Honor." The Des Moines Register 21 November 1909.,

"Librarian 40 Years." Chillicothe Gazette 01 August 1929.,

"Miss Alice Tyler [Obituary]." The Decatur Daily Review 24 April 1944.,

"Miss Tyler Dies in Ohio." The Decatur Daily Review 18 April 1944.,

Stuart, Shana L. "'My Duty and My Pleasure': Alice S. Tyler's Reluctant Oversight of Carnegie Library Philanthropy in Iowa." Information & Culture, vol. 48, no. 1, 2013, pp. 91-111. JSTOR, Accessed 4 May 2021.

"Tyler, Alice S." Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Case Western Reserve University.

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 19 February 2021), Alice S Tyler in household of John W Tyler, Decatur, Macon, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district ED 148, sheet 309B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,229.

"United States Census, 1880." Database with images. FamilySearch. : 29 March 2021. Citing NARA microfilm publication T9. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

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