Victoria Lyles of York, Pa.: ‘Do you have any further information about this amazing woman?’
York educator Victoria Lyles achieved much, and one of her lasting legacies is her involvement in the founding of York Twinning. Background post: YLT + YSO + 75 years = A1 entertainment, Many national stars performed on YLT’s stage and ‘Weekly Reader’s’ founder Eleanor Johnson.
York Little Theatre’s Julie Aiken is finishing up work on a book marking York Little Theatre’s 75th annversary being celebrated this year.
She came across a woman who seemed to be making things happen across the community in the 1930s through 1950s – Victoria Lyles.
Among other things, Julie found that Victoria Lyles worked with Rabbi Alexander Goode on teaching tolerance in York City schools and was instrumental in desegregating York’s schools.
“Do you have any further information about this amazing woman?” she wrote… .
This plaque appears at Arles Playground, Arles Park – King and Pattison streets, York.
Victoria Lyles, indeed, used a loud, clear voice in calling for community change. Then she set about to make it happen.
Today, she is perhaps most remembered for her work with York Twinning, an organization formed in the Cold War years of the 1950s to foster understanding with first a sister city in France and then Germany. Today, exchanges continue with Arles, France, and Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany.
Many in York may not be familiar with Dr. Lyles. Her name does not appear on any buildings, and she came to York from Oklahoma and returned there later in life. So a two-decade-plus tenure never made her a “true Yorker.” (A common joke among non-natives is that you’ll never become one unless you’re born here.)
The AAUW remembered Victoria Lyles in their book “Legacies,” the 1984 publication that honored achieving women in York County’s past.
Here is that book’s synopsis of her work:
A native of Wagoner, Okla., and former state supervisor for Oklahoma schools, Dr. Victoria M. Lyles was a pioneer in the field of education. She is especially remembered in York, where she served as director of York City Schools elementary and kindergarten education for 25 years.
She experimented with many new ideas and programs that are today taken for granted.
Lyles foresaw a plan for injecting international understanding into public education and envisioned the potential for improved human relations through the development of a foreign language program. Her bilingual program was instituted in 1952 and within two years was expanded to several York schools.
In 1954, success of this program led to York being chosen as a “twin” city with Arles, France. Arles recognized the educator by naming a school in her honor.
Lyles was a great innovator. As early as 1940 she developed case studies to show how the psychological factors in a child’s background and home life could affect his or her ability to learn. These studies helped the schools to deal with emotionally disturbed children and to establish special courses providing a proper education.
She also recognized the damaging effects of racial discrimination on a child. In the 1940s, long before integration became a popular issue in the country, she was an outspoken advocate of integration in York’s elementary schools. Lyles wrote and distributed bulletins that gave information on various races and creeds. In 1947, the first interracial kindergarten was opened in an all-white school. This evolved into the integration of 18 more schools that used the plan designed by Lyles.
In 1949, Lyles was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. Many additional honors were bestowed on her. In York she was known as a reformer unafraid of change.
She retired to Oklahoma and continued to work in the field of education until her death.
Other achieving women from York County’s past: