A Visionary Woman
Ethel Hedgeman Lyle was born in 1885 in St, Louis, Missouri. Her father, Albert Hedgeman, worked for the YMCA and her mother, Maria Hubbard Hedgeman, cared for Ethel and her two sisters, Iota and Thelma. Ethel Hedgeman attended public schools in St. Louis and graduated with honors from Sumner High School in 1904 with a scholarship to Howard University.
She entered the College of Arts and Sciences at Howard University in 1904, but had to withdraw for one term after her second year because of illness. She was a member of the university choir, YWCA, and Christian Endeavor. She was also an active member of student dramatic productions. College associates have described her as a lively, charming, bubbling young woman, full of life and laughter, although somewhat delicate in health.
After graduating in 1909 with a B.A. in liberal arts, Ethel Hedgeman went to Enfala, Oklahoma. That summer she taught music in the Summer Normal School and continued to teach in the public school of Enfala until 1910. She was the first Black woman college graduate to teach in a normal school in Oklahoma and the first to receive a Teacher's Life Certificate from the Oklahoma State Department of Education. During the school year 1910-1911 she taught in the public schools of Centralia, Illinois.
After teaching in Centralia, Ethel Hedgeman married her high school and college sweetheart, George Lyle, in New York on June 21, 1911, and established residence in Philadelphia where their only child, George, Jr., was born.
Mrs. Lyle resumed her career in Philadelphia in 1922 teaching English at the Thomas Purham School and then at the Arthur School, from which she retired in 1948. Her husband was also a teacher and later became the principal of the Walter George Smith School.
Mrs. Lyle was active in church and civic affairs in Philadelphia. She was founder of the Mother's Club of the City, charter member of the West Philadelphia League of Women Voters, and a member of the Republican Women's Committee of Ward 40. In 1937, she was appointed chairman of the Mayor's Committee of One Hundred Women, organized to assist in planning for the sesquicentennial anniversary of the adoption of the constitution. Mrs. Lyle was an avid reader. She loved to do crossword puzzles and enjoyed playing bridge.
Ethel Hedgeman Lyle died on November 28, 1950 in Philadelphia and was buried there. In addition to her husband and her son, Mrs. Lyle was survived by two granddaughters, Muriel Jean and Andrea Joan. The sorority voted that scholarships of one thousand dollars be awarded to the granddaughters so that they could attend the college of their choice. The scholarships were presented at the Golden Anniversary Boule in Washington, D.C. in 1958.
The Ethel Hedgeman Lyle Endowment Fund perpetuated the name of the charming and gracious woman who founded the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority over 95 years ago