If you haven’t met her, I’d like to introduce you to Alice Louise Reynolds, a “founder” of The Lord’s University, a beloved BYU professor and one of our favorite Mormons.
It is estimated that Reynolds taught over 5,000 students in 20 different literature courses during her 44 year tenure. She was the first female at BYU (and second in Utah) to become a full professor. She taught the first classes at The BYU in Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton. In 1911 she was the first woman to give the BYU Founders Day address. In 1999 BYU Magazine named her among the Top 10 BYU professors … ever: http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=172.
Not only did she teach English literature and composition, she also taught theology courses and established the first library collection at the school. When giving student feedback, she opined: “tough criticism [will] help them to grow.”
Her legendary absent-mindedness endeared her to all. According to anecdotal evidence, she purportedly:
* carried her teakettle mistaking it for her purse,
* wore dresses inside out,
* entered a classroom through a window, bloomers first, and
* walked through a herd of cows while reading a book, swatting at them with her purse.
In addition to teaching, Reynolds was an inexhaustible contributor to LDS magazines as well as author of numerous lessons appearing in the Mormon church’s manuals, including writing 10 years of literature courses for the Relief Society.
She never married. “To some of you,” she once said, “the sweetest word in the English language is ‘husband,’ to some of you, ‘child,’ but to me the sweetest word in the English language is ‘friend.’”
Reynolds’ energies were not confined to her Mormon circles of influence. She was also a political activist. As a women’s advocate and active Democrat, she served on the Democratic Party’s National Committee and as a delegate to its national conventions, as well as a delegate to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the National American Women Suffrage Conventions, and the League of Women Voters at the Pan American Convention.
Shortly before her death in December 1938, she said to her sister: “I am not afraid to die. I have lived the best I could, and I am sure no girl or woman ever had a more wonderful life, with more opportunities, more privileges, and more friends. I have been most fortunate and for all these blessings, I am sincerely grateful.”
In 1933 her former students and friends organized the Alice Louise Reynolds Club to promote libraries and the study of literature across the U.S. “Members found in her a champion of their sex, a custodian of their cultural and spiritual values, and an exponent of friendship. They continued to send back books and money, and to sponsor an English student scholarship. Their meetings became spontaneous centers of continuing education.” Her legacy of independent thinking and action inspired a later group known as the Alice Louise Reynolds Women’s Forum to meet between January 1978 and April 1981 to discuss feminist issues, in particular the Equal Rights Amendment, as these matters related to the LDS church.
Alice Louise Reynolds, we consider you our friend.
Sources: Reba Keele, “Alice L. Reynolds,” in Sister Saints (BYU Press, 1978); Amy Bentley, “‘Comforting the Motherless Children’: The Alice Louise Reynolds Forum” (Dialogue, Fall 1990); and A Book of Mormons.