Sarah Elizabeth Doyle

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Sarah Elizabeth Doyle
Sarah Doyle by Cecilia Beaux.jpg
Sarah Doyle painted by Cecilia Beaux
Born(1830-03-22)March 22, 1830
DiedDecember 21, 1922(1922-12-21) (aged 92)
Resting placeSwan Point Cemetery[1]
OccupationEducator and reformer
Known forLeading the campaign to admit women to Brown University
RelativesMayor Thomas A. Doyle (brother)

Sarah Elizabeth Doyle (March 22, 1830 – December 21, 1922)[2] was an American educator and educational reformer, noted for her roles in founding the Rhode Island School of Design and establishing women's education at Brown University.

Early life[edit]

Sarah Elizabeth Doyle was born in Providence in 1830, the third of seven children to Martha Dorrance Doyle and Thomas Doyle, a bookbinder. She graduated from Providence High School in 1846 and began her career as a teacher in 1856.[3]

Rhode Island School of Design[edit]

Doyle was a charter member of the corporation of the Rhode Island School of Design and served as secretary from 1877 to 1899.[4]

Pembroke College[edit]

Sarah Doyle is perhaps best known for leading the campaign to admit women to Brown University. In 1891, the first six female students were allowed to enroll as undergraduates. By 1895, Doyle formed the Rhode Island Society for the Collegiate Education of Women for the purpose of raising the funds for a full Women's College at Brown.[4] The group raised $75,000 to erect Pembroke Hall, the first permanent building of the Brown Women's College, later renamed Pembroke College.[5]

Other achievements[edit]

Doyle served as the Girls' Principal at Providence High School from 1878 until her retirement in 1892. She was active in a number of Rhode Island organizations, including the Rhode Island Women's Club, which she founded in 1876, the Providence Athenaeum, the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction.[6] In 1898, Providence mayor William C. Baker named Doyle as secretary of a commission of five members to investigate the management of public schools.[4]

Death and burial[edit]

Doyle died on December 21, 1922 at her home at 119 Prospect Street in Providence. Her health had been declining for some time.[4] Her funeral was held at the First Congregational Church (now First Unitarian Church) on Benefit Street.[4] She is buried in a family plot in Swan Point Cemetery.[4]

Tributes and recognition[edit]

  • She was the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Brown University in 1894[2][4]
  • Sarah Doyle was honored during her own lifetime through the Sarah E. Doyle Club, created by her students in 1894.
  • In 1975, Brown University established the Sarah Doyle Women's Center.
  • Doyle was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2005.[6]


  1. ^ "Notable Persons Interred at Swan Point Cemetery". Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b Ohles, Frederik; Ohles, Shirley M.; Ramsay, John G. (1997). Biographical Dictionary of Modern American Educators. Greenwood. p. 92. ISBN 978-0313291333. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  3. ^ Gina Macris, "Sarah Doyle," in Women in Rhode Island History: Making a Difference (The Providence Journal Company, 1994): 13.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Sarah E. Doyle, Suffrage Worker and Teacher, Dead". The Providence Journal. 22 December 1922. p. 1.
  5. ^ Brown University, Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. "Christine Dunlap Farnham Archives" (PDF). Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Sarah Elizabeth Doyle". Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. Retrieved 22 May 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Search for Equity: Women at Brown University, 1891-1991. Polly Welts Kaufman, ed. Brown University Press.
  • “Sarah E. Doyle: Gifted Organizer of Pembroke’s First Friends,” Pembroke Alumna, April 1967.

External links[edit]