Browse Exhibits (2 total)

The Denton Women's Interracial Fellowship


The Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship (DWIF) was started in 1964 by a number of white and black women from the local Denton churches. During a time when white Dentonites responded to the civil rights movement with resistance and occasional violence, a small, bi-racial group of women met with a simple question: how to break down the barriers between themselves. What began as a simple question became a grassroots movement that achieved the kind of progress that was rarely seen in the Southern United States in this era.

The civil rights movement was active in North Texas in this period, with groups like the Dallas NAACP chapter working in inventive ways to break down segregation. Denton may have seemed like an unusual site for civil rights activity, because the African American population was barely 10% of the total city population, but it was a site of struggle. The DWIF's efforts began during a tense period in Denton's history in which demonstrators sat in at the university auditorium and picketed segregated restaurants. 

The DWIF started small, meeting in the homes of members for intimate social occasions as members worked to get to know one another. Not too long afterward things began to open up and progress as members focusesd on their common bonds as parents with children in the soon-to-be-desegregated public schools. By the fall of 1964 simple interaction had turned into determined action as the DWIF became involved with a wide variety of local activities.

When the Denton schools desegregated and Fred Moore School, an institution in the African American community, closed down in 1968 the DWIF helped arrange carpools for black students to get rides to school well before bus routes were established. Several women also worked directly in the schools, tutoring students and reporting problems to the school board. The DWIF women were active in local politics, starting with going door-to-door registering voters for the 1964 election and informing voters about the candidates.

The biggest and most challenging project for the DWIF women required them to take to the streets: their goal was to improve the infrastructure of Southeast Denton, where a large majority of the black population lived along deplorable dirt roads and with sporadic water and sewer service. They began with a project to get the streets paved. The city council initially denied funding for the paving project, so the women of the DWIF distributed petitions, lobbied slumlords, and convinced residents to donate land to expand the streets. Piece by piece the streets began to be paved and sewer lines expanded, and the quality of life improved for the black neighborhood.

Afterwards the DWIF sponsored other local projects including job and "general help" fairs among their school activities, but by the 1970s many of the women began to enter different stages in their lives and meetings became fewer and fewer. Some went back to work once their kids graduated, others moved away, and many continued on to serve in different projects and organizations. Though the DWIF faded away, its impact on Denton and--of equal importance to many of the women--their friendships remained.

It all began with a dialogue. The University of North Texas Oral History Program now invites you to listen in and explore what kinds of impact a little talking can have. 

The Women of the DWIF


The Women of the DWIF (Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship) were unique in their motivation to improve race relations in the community during the 1960s and 1970s, and their dedication to serve the Denton community outside the realm of the DWIF. They strived for a better Denton that included all citizens in the community long after the organization ceased major activities in the 1970s. Pat Gulley concludes; “I think the people involved in the Fellowship have always made a point of being involved in things that mattered, certainly racial things.” [1] The University of North Texas (UNT) Oral History Program interviewed twenty women of the DWIF in 1987 and 1988, and additional interviews were conducted in 2006 with DWIF members who were also descendants of Quakertown families. In 2017 the UNT Oral History Program re-interviewed fourteen of the women to gain a perspective on the legacies of the DWIF. Many women of the DWIF have continued to serve the Denton community, promoting racial equality, education, and social welfare.   

Many of the women of the DWIF were not native Dentonites, and moved to the area either in the 1950s or 1960s, during the height of the civil rights movement. Many of the DWIF members were drawn to Denton by jobs (either theirs or their husbands') at Texas Women’s University (TWU) and the University of North Texas (UNT). Several women were employed by TWU, UNT, or the Denton ISD. Most DWIF members had children attending public schools in Denton when the district’s schools integrated. Overall, the majority of the DWIF members were young women, with young children, who had participated in higher education. 

The women of the DWIF were certainly faith-oriented. The formation of the organization essentially began due to dialogue between women of local Denton churches. The conception of the DWIF began when where Dorothy Adkins and Euline Brock attended a regional women's meeting at the First Presbyterian Church of Wichita Falls in 1964. “Reconciliation” was the theme used to discuss building harmonious race relations at this conference of Presbyterian women. [2] In addition, the program also included a prepared dialogue between white and black women [3]. Subsequently, Trudy Foster, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries was networking with black and white congregations in Denton for the World Day of Prayer through the Christian Women’s Association. It was during this event when Foster became acquainted with first members of the DWIF, including, Adkins, Brock, Linnie McAdams, and Billie Mohair. Katherine McGuire recalls, that she “was delighted to be invited” to a DWIF meeting, furthermore, “was glad for the opportunity for that kind of interaction because [she] had no other way of knowing any black people in Denton, TX.” [4] The first meeting consisted of six to ten Denton women at Jean Kooker’s home. Foster, who became a major driving force behind the urban renewal project of southeast Denton iterated; “I always felt like I needed to keep doing my little thing to keep society in balance, shall we say.” [5]

Before the DWIF, most white women had very little interaction with African Americans in Denton, as Carol Riddlesperger describes: “We became aware that we didn’t know black people except as we saw them as working menial jobs as housekeepers, janitors and so forth.” [6] African American women raised in Denton, such as Ruby Cole, Bettie Kimble, Willie McAdams, Billie Mohair, and Norvell Reed, were certainly familiar with segregation in Denton, and a few held lasting memories of Quakertown, a successful African American community that was removed from its neighborhood near downtown Denton to southeast of Denton during the 1920s by the City. Blacks of southeast Denton were essentially segregated from the rest of town, which lacked paved roads, and other essential city services. African American DWIF members including Alma Clark, Catherine Bell, Bessie HardenLinnie McAdams, and Mae Nell Sheppard were confined to that area of town.

Once the DWIF formed, the white women gained insight of the conditions that black Dentonites were subjected to in southeast Denton. For instance, Ann Barnett recalls discussing with black members about southeast Denton roads; “We learned what the conditions were that these ladies were living in...we didn’t know they were having to put up with conditions like that.”[7] Despite limited awareness of southeast Denton before the DWIF, black members were pleased to having the white women interact with them. Billy Mohair explains; “These white ladies didn’t have to come into our area...and we were awed by their dedication to come to our community and learned to get along with us.” [8]

These women continued to engage in community improvement activities long after the DWIF ceased major activities in the 1970s. A few served in local government, such as Euline Brock and Linnie McAdams, both of whom served on the Denton City Council. In addition, Brock became the mayor of Denton in 2000 and served until 2006. The Euline Brock Downtown Denton Transit Center is named in honor of Brock’s services to Denton. One Denton elementary school, Catherine Bell Elementary, is named in honor of Bell’s services to special needs children. Dorothy P. Adkins Elementary School is named for another of the DWIF's founders. Other women, such as Carol Riddlesperger and Evelyn Black were involved in international student organizations at UNT from the 1960s to 1990s. Ann Barnett and Riddlesperger ran for positions on the Denton School Board in the 1970s. Many are supporters of the Democratic Party, and have participated in past presidential campaigns. [9]

Since the dissolution of major DWIF activities in the 1970s, the group has been featured in media outlets throughout North Texas. the Denton Record-Chronicle has featured numerous articles on the DWIF throughout the decades. One of the most recent articles published on February 27, 2017, featured Dorothy Adkins and Linnie McAdams speaking at Adkins Elemenatry School to a group third grade students; “Both women were members of the [DWIF] and played a significant role in Denton ISD’s integration process.” [10] The history of the DWIF is also covered in the documentary, “When We Were All Broncos,” which explored the history of segregation in Denton and the integration of Denton High School. [11]   

The DWIF never officially disbanded; there are occasional meetings among a few of the members. Some members have remained in touch and see each other on a regular basis through community service activities, bible studies, and church gatherings. Their legacy of service continues to be recognized by the community.