Born in Kansas City, Missouri she earned an undergraduate degree from University of Michigan and a master's degree in bacteriology from Emory University. She met her husband, William T. Gayle, in Atlanta. They moved to New York, where she wrote for CBS Radio, then worked as a freelance writer and public relations executive. Gayle wrote an architecture column for The Daily News for 16 years. In 1957, she made an unsuccessful New York City Council bid and got divorced.
Gayle helped preserve the Jefferson Market Courthouse in the 1960s. In the wake of the destruction of Pennsylvania Station, she helped lobby for passage of a preservation law. She founded Friends of Cast Iron Architecture in 1970, which led to the establishment of the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District. She received the General Tools Award, the highest award of the Society for Industrial Archeology, in 1997.