Fox, Ruth (ca. 1902–1978)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: October 9, 2019

Ruth Fox, social worker, was born in Celeste, Hunt County, Texas, around 1902. Her father was a rural physician. She graduated from Baylor University and then studied two years at the New York School of Social Work, where she completed her work in criminology early in the 1920s. She then served as supervisor of classification and parole at the Federal Correctional Institution in Seagoville, Texas, where she was credited with obtaining probation and parole privileges for adult offenders. Later, through relief work she supervised in rural areas during the Great Depression, Fox became involved with the western part of Dallas. This work impressed upon her the indignities suffered by people who lacked proper food and other necessities.

In the early 1950s, after a bout with tuberculosis, she continued her service to West Dallas when she joined the staff of the Dallas Housing Authority. As a self-described "little ol' do-gooder," she used her position with DHA for twenty-two years to wage a war on poverty in West Dallas and to set an example for other endeavors of this nature across the state. Acknowledging that the authority was not strictly a welfare agency, she nonetheless made welfare her priority there, spending most of her time making referrals for needy people. Officially, she served as the authority's liaison to city, county, and state offices through her role as agency relations supervisor and management aide. Unofficially, she consistently fought to lower discrepancies in living standards between West Dallas and more affluent areas of the city and to encourage the rest of Dallas to recognize and assist West Dallas. She also engineered several beautification projects in West Dallas before retiring from the agency in 1974.

Fox's interest in social work was supplemented by a variety of efforts in civic affairs. She served as president of the Texas Federation of Business and Professional Women, as well as president of the Dallas chapter of this group. She supported the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and was a close associate of the leader for that movement in Texas, attorney Hermine Tobolowsky. Fox also assisted Edna Gladney in her efforts to have the word "illegitimate" kept off public birth records. As the first woman to serve on the Dallas County grand jury commission, Fox was instrumental in having the first two women in the county named to a grand jury. She also was a member of the county welfare board and the board of the Dallas Civic Opera and received numerous community service awards.

She was married to Phil E. Fox, an advertising and public relations executive, who preceded her in death. She died in Gilmer, Texas, on November 23, 1978, and was buried in Grovehill Cemetery in Dallas. She was survived by one son and one sister.

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Dallas Morning News, November 24, 1978. Dallas Times Herald, December 26, 1965, October 18, 1973.

  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Social Workers
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Fox, Ruth,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
October 9, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: