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Alice Gardner was born at Hackney, London and attended secondary school at Clapham before going on to study history at Cambridge University. After serving as an assistant headmistress at a school for girls at Plymouth, she became a professor of ancient and modern history at Bedford College in London in 1883. She then lectured for three decades at her alma mater of Newnham College, Cambridge, and became an asssociate of the college in 1893. Professor Gardner was appointed Reader in Byzantine history at the University of Bristol in 1919. She served on the Council of the Royal Historical Society and was vice-president of the Historical Association. Her published works included Synesius of Cyrene, Philosopher and Bishop, The Lascarids of Nicaea, and Theodore of Studium: His Life and Times. Her brother Percy Gardner was an historian of Greek art and numismatics at Oxford University, and their younger brother Ernest A. Gardner was also a classical scholar and art historian.
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