Zonta Club of Dallas

Our 97 Year History

Zonta International, a service organization of executives in business and the professions, was founded in 1919 in Buffalo, New York. This was the same year women in the United States gained the right to vote. Zonta International now has 1,200 Zonta Clubs and 30,000 members in 67 countries. To support women’s education, we offer annual scholarships to women in business, public affairs, and aerospace related sciences, math and engineering. These programs have provided more than $10.5 million internationally since their inception and continue to provide more than $530,000 each year in support of women. The 100th anniversary of Zonta will be in 2019.

20s and 30s

Just five years later the Zonta Club of Dallas was organized in May 1924, with 22 members, and was the first classified service club for executive and professional women in Dallas. Charter members included: SARAH MENEZES who was the first woman Assistant United States District Attorney in Texas; MARY CONGER was the first woman Deputy Clerk of the United States District Court in Texas; HATTIE HENENBERG who was Associate Justice of the first Texas Supreme Court composed entirely of women; and MARY ETHEL WELBORN the first woman CPA in Texas.

In 1930 this club endorsed and worked for the City Manager plan of government for Dallas. In the early 30’s AMELIA EARHART, a New York Zontian, flew into Dallas in an autogiro to visit the Dallas Club.

Amelia EarhartAmelia Earhart
In 1934 this Club started a Zonta Service Award presented to a Dallas woman who had made a distinctly constructive contribution to the community life of Dallas through volunteer service, or who had signally advanced the cause of women. This award was made annually for fifty (50) years. The presentation received recognition by the press, which became more difficult to obtain for service work.

Sarah T. HughesAlso in the 1930’s, SARA T HUGHES, a member of this Club, was named Judge of the 14th District Court, and later became the first woman to be named a United States Federal Judge, and in that position administered the oath of office to Lyndon Johnson after President Kennedy’s Judge Sarah T. Hughes assassination.

Zontians joined other women’s groups in vigorously protesting a Dallas City Council action which proposed to discharge all married women employed by the City whose husbands were employed.

Service during this period was directed to children and young people. As war clouds gathered Zontians worked with the Red Cross, War Bond Drives, Victory Gardens and Victory Book Drives. Zontians were very active in protesting discrimination against women in the armed forces, and protested discrimination by the Dallas School Board against married women as teachers in the Dallas Public Schools.

40s and 50s

Post war planning, international relations and legislation to benefit veterans were important topics to the Club during the 40s. Educational scholarships at Southern Methodist University were provided. Concern for the less fortunate encouraged this Club to establish the Zonta Community House in West Dallas. Activities included: prenatal and well-baby clinics conducted by the Dallas County Medical Society, Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops, home training and guidance for girls and women, legal aid and accounting advice for adults.

The campaign for greater participation by women in government gained momentum and names of qualified women were submitted to the City and County for appointed boards.

In the early fifties, eight of our members were doctors, several were lawyers, and about half of the Club members were the first woman in her profession or field. MILDRED McCOOL joined the Club in 1947, served as president in 1951-52. In 1953 DR. RUTH GUY, President in 1961-’62, was one of the people who started the science of blood banking. DR. GUY taught at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and her former students have gone all over the world to establish blood banks. Texas Utilities engineer, RUTH MADDOX, joined in 1952 and recalls the many ways the Club’s efforts that changed Dallas. Her professional work designing commercial lighting gave Dallas 1000;s of illuminated buildings that are the sparkle in Dallas night time sky.

Dr. Ruth GuyRuth P. MaddoxDr. L. Ruth Guy and Ruth P. Maddox
In the 1950’s the Club raised money to pay the annual salary of a teacher of emotionally disturbed children at Children’s Development Center. They gave a scholarship for a student at this CDC, and paid for treatment for a young boy which paved the way for his adoption. Elderly at Woodlawn Hospital benefited by the redecoration and refurbishing of a recreation room, and new furnishings in the occupational therapy room. The Club also provided newspaper subscriptions to Woodlawn.

As the new Children’s Medical Center was built Zontians urged that an extra floor be added to care for children needing psychiatric help and voted to pay for a part of that floor. Zonta Club of Dallas provided help for this hospital for more than ten years. They furnished the family living room of the psychiatric floor, cost of building and furnishing the Chapel complex, a therapeutic playground, and redecorating projects in the psychiatric section.


60s and 70s

The Zonta Club of Dallas provided the initial $1,000 to establish “The Family Place,” Dallas’ first shelter for battered women and children.

A Zonta Greenspot was adopted as a bicentennial gift to the city. Cooperating with the Dallas Parks Department, a downtown triangle parking lot at Young, Marilla, and Akard Streets was chosen for landscaping and beautification for the enjoyment of visitors and citizens. $20,000 was provided for this project from 1965 to 1971.

As Director of the Dallas Public Libraries, member LILLIAN BRADSHAW was the first woman head of a department of the City of Dallas, and still today the only one. Under BRADSHAW’s leadership the new downtown library and a network of branches were built.

Lillian BradshawLillian Bradshaw
In the 1960s several laws were passed improving the economic and status of women. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination against women. The flood gates had been opened for women. The number of women in business and executive positions grew rapidly. So therefore did the Zonta Club. With membership well over a hundred members, in 1973 a second Zonta Club was organized, the Zonta Club of Dallas 2.

The club honored ANNETTE STRAUSS in 1968 long before she became mayor of the City of Dallas. In the early 70s member ANITA MARTINEZ was the first woman to serve on the Dallas City Council. In 1973 the club gave a scholarship to a woman law student in honor of SARAH T. HUGHES. This was continued for twenty five (25) years. The United Nations International Women’s year in 1976 was supported through activities which highlighted women’s concerns, such as hunger and peace. MARGARET BRAND SMITH, of the club, attorney and insurance executive, served on the Dallas Commission on the Status of Women. Old Service Projects continued: Children’s Medical Center, the Zonta Greenspot, the Service Award, and the Sarah T. Hughes Scholarships. New projects included the occupational therapy unit at Presbyterian Hospital, purchase of a special scale for the Neurology Department at Scottish Rite Hospital, refurbishing the family room at Children’s Medical Center, and money for a storeroom for the Thelma Boston Home for disabled unadoptable foster children. Time and money was contributed to the Myasthenia Gravis organization.

Two library projects included the Dallas Public Library and furnishing books and money to the Groesbeck Library honoring former member DR. MINNIE MAFFET. Dental care was provided to the Dallas County Detention Home for Children. Internationally, three water wells were built in Sri-Lanka in honor of members: two past District Governors, PAT GORDON and BESS JUDD, a fifty year Zontian, and EDNA WILLINGHAM, a forty-eight year member.

80s and 90s

From 1924 until 1986 the Club met twice a month; a program meeting and next a business meeting. Since both did not take place at one time meetings adjourned usually in one hour. There were two or three parties each year at fabulous homes such as those of KITTY DOOLIN, MARY KAY ASH, FRANKIE PRITCHARD, ALMA McCUTCHIN’S son, NOREEN NICOL, ARA HYDE, MARGARET BRAND SMITH, DR. DALE ROBINOWITZ, DR. MAY REED, MARY HARRISON, AND MILDRED McCOOL.

From a small club of 22 members in 1924, the Zonta Club of Dallas counted 117 members in 1982. The Zonta Club of Dallas North was organized in 1988, and the Zonta Club of Dallas 3 was organized in 1989. Starting in 1988 consecutive BESS JUDD Awards have been made to members who represent the “Spirit of Zonta” through their service.

The Club supported the Achievement Center of Texas from 1986 through 2001. The Center provides day care, educational assistance and community inclusion for children and young adults with special needs. Zonta Club of Dallas’s help has enabled them to acquire needed special equipment for the students.

From 1986 through 2001 Zonta Club of Dallas provided monetary assistance for the Open Door Multi-Lingual Preschool, a program to prepare children for public school who are from non-English speaking families. They gave money annually for special needs and $15,000 to complete a matching gift to secure a bus. In addition members provided parties, Easter baskets, and birthday books to encourage literacy. Member, ANNE SNODGRASS, CPA, has served many years on the School’s Board of Directors.

Anne SnodgrassAnne D. Snodgrass
1997 through 1999 members of Zonta Club of Dallas have been active in helping with three United Nations Conferences on Women.

Other projects in the nineties were the Senior Companions Program of seniors helping seniors project of the Greater Dallas Senior Center, Happy House an East Dallas senior center, and Promise House a shelter for run-away teens. In 1998 and ’99 new projects include Attitudes and Attire – a program to help women moving from welfare to work to have business clothes and training in interview skills, HOPE (Honoring of Peoples Everywhere) a cultural diversity program for 6th graders, Dallas Challenge – a program to help young girls who have been in the judicial system, and ELM (English Language Ministry) a program to help adults to speak English.

2000 to 2014

In 2001 the Club received a grant from Zonta International Strategies to End Violence Against Women (ZISVAW) for the “Bullyproof” program. Member KALETA DOOLIN had an idea for a program that targets seven to twelve year olds and is designed to teach them how to understand and cope with bullies, abuse, violence, and the myriad of emotions that accompany these social and psychological problems. The Club collaborated with The Family Place, a local non-profit that empowers victims of family violence by providing safe housing, counseling and life skills, on the proposal. Zonta International chose the Bullyproof proposal as one of four recipients for a $15,969 grant that year. The first year the program was taught in fifteen schools during six weekly sessions. It was later expanded to include 40 schools over the Dallas Independent School District. The Family Place continues to offer the Bullyproof program, now called the Be Project, as part of their services.

The Club introduced the Young Women in STEM Award in 2011. Patterned after the Young Women in Public Affairs award, this recognizes a young woman aged 16 to 19 who has excelled in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculums and has woven those skills into community service and volunteerism. In 2013 the award was renamed the Ruth P. Maddox Young Woman in STEM in tribute to deceased member RUTH P. MADDOX.

Through all 92 years of Zonta Club of Dallas’ history, we have supported Zonta International programs such as the Amelia Earhart Fellowship Awards, which exceed 1,435 Fellowships and more than US$8.6 million to women in 70 countries, and the United Nations programs such as UNICEF, UNESCO, UNIFEM, and ZIZVAW, a program to prevent violence against women.

And through 92 years of service to the Dallas Community, the Club has singled out worthwhile newer organizations which had not achieved enough of a track record to secure mainstream funding from sources such as United Way of Metropolitan Dallas or other major funding sources. After these programs got on their feet, the Club moved on to other worthy, newly established organizations. Change was brought about when it was time, and help offered to many in need.