Irene Tanner Myers c1916

Randolph Hollingsworth's picture

Irene Tanner Myers, Ph.D. (11 April 1861 - 30 January 1941) was an ambitious academic leader and women's rights advocate who worked for nearly two decades in Kentucky. She was born in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, at the outbreak of the Civil War, and her parents Charity Cox and Andrew Emmons Myers moved to West Virginia. She was a devout member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), attending Bethany College in West Virginia while living on a farm with her parents and her maternal grandparents, Susan and Isaac Cox. After graduating from Bethany College, for four years she served as principal of the Normal School at Fairmont, West Virginia (now Fairmont State University). Before the age of 30 she bravely undertook the role of graduate student at Yale University, one of the earliest women to do so. She earned a fellowship, and then graduated with her Ph.D. in history from Yale University in 1900. Her wide-ranging and globally-focused dissertation was published by Henry Holt & Co. in 1901 as part of a series, Yale Studies in English: A Study in Epic Development.

She worked in the south side of Boston, Mass. as part of the settlement school movement there and was a lecturer in the Sloyd Training School from 1900-1903. She attended classes at the University of Chicago and University of Michigan, and also traveled and studied abroad.

She was then hired in 1903 as the first female Dean of Women at Transylvania University, and also as Professor of History. She joined the Woman's Club of Central Kentucky, serving as orator and chair of Press Bureau of the Education Committee for the Kentucky Federation of Woman's Clubs. Her report on the archives of the state of Kentucky for the American Historical Association's Report of the Public Archives Commission of Washington D.C. in 1910 was highly regarded. In January 1911 she stood with Anna Hamilton, Dean of Women at the University of Kentucky, before the Kentucky Federation of Labor convention to convince them to endorse women's suffrage -- which they did. Later that year, she traveled to Christian Female College in Columbia, Missouri, where she attended the wedding of Luella Wilcox St. Clair, former president of Hamilton Female College, to Dr. Woodson Moss. She carried with her a large silver tray, a wedding present from her former students and colleagues in Lexington.

Dr. Myers was a founding member of Conference of Deans of Women (1914), a part of the Southern Association of College Women; and, she was an early member of the American Association of University Women. Her passport application (photo above) in January 1916 stated she planned to be gone nine months to visit Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Dr. Myers participated in the Pan-American Latin American Congress (1916). Before she left Kentucky, Dr. Myers served as Chairman of the Deans of the South and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Association of College Women.

In 1920 she moved to Los Angeles, California, and became dean of women at Occidental College. She continued to travel as part of her church missionary work, serving as an official delegate to the 1921 Latin-American Conference in Panama and a member of the Latin-American Visiting Commission sent by Evangelical Churches. She was the author of two monographs published by the Pan-American Conference: "Study In Ethics Development" and "Report on Education of Women In Latin America." 

Dr. Myers retired in 1934, and moved to a retirement home in Santa Barbara, California. She died on January 30, 1941, after a month of illness. She was buried in Campbell Cemetery in Bethany, WV near her parents and one of her brothers, Dr. Errett Campbell Myers (1856-1922).