Alice Dickerson (Monty, Admonty) Montemayor, a leader in the League of United Latin American Citizens, feminist, and folk artist, was born on August 6, 1902, to John Randolph and Manuela (Barrera) Dickerson in Laredo, Texas. She attended the Colegio de Guadalupe, graduated from Laredo High School in 1924, and had planned to study law, but after her father died she remained in Laredo to help her mother and to attend Laredo Business College for a year. She married Francisco Montemayor on September 8, 1927, and they had two sons. In 1934 Alice Montemayor began employment as a social worker in Webb County, where she investigated cases to place Mexican Americans on welfare during the Great Depression. She worked there until 1949. When she began, she was denied an office key and worked under a tree. Some Caucasian clients refused to see her, and at one time she was provided a bodyguard.
In 1936, after her son, Francisco, Jr., began school, Mrs. Montemayor joined LULAC upon the invitation of Esther N. Machuca as a charter member of Ladies LULAC 15. She was secretary in 1936–37 and president in 1938–39. As secretary, she reported the council's activities to LULAC News and thus garnered the attention of the national organization. She served as a delegate to the June 1937 Houston LULAC convention, where she was elected second national vice president general, her first national post. In addition, by 1940 she was associate editor of LULAC News and director general of Junior LULAC. She was the first woman to hold an elected national position not specifically designated for a woman, and after her tenure the position of second national vice president general was allocated to a woman. In this position she promoted the establishment of more ladies' councils. At the funeral of Ben (Bernardo F.) Garza, first president of LULAC, she spoke on women's roles in politics. In October 1937 she wrote an article entitled "Women's Opportunity in LULAC," in which she defined a woman's place to be "in that position where she can do the most for the furthering of her fellow women." In February 1938 in an editorial entitled "Son Muy Hombres?" she denounced notions of male superiority, argued for women's right to participate in LULAC, and condemned the national office for ignoring letters written by Ladies LULAC Council 9 in El Paso. She wrote more articles for LULAC News than any other woman in LULAC. She also organized a young people's group, Junior LULAC, and served as its president general in 1939–40. She wrote the first Junior LULAC charter and on October 24, 1937, organized a coed youth group intended to set an example to adult LULAC members. She hoped to avoid the "egotism" and "petty jealousies" that she argued plagued the LULAC councils of the 1930s. She apparently left LULAC around 1940.
In 1937 she opened a dress shop, but the business apparently failed. Between 1951 and 1956 she operated another one. In 1956 the Laredo Independent School District asked her to substitute for the registrar, and she continued working at L. J. Christen Junior High School until 1972. She was also active with Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, where she served as organist, taught catechism classes, assisted with festivals, and organized the first youth choir. In 1951 she earned a pontifical blessing.
After she retired, Mrs. Montemayor established herself as a folk artist. In 1973 she began raising gourds and painting them with vivid, multifarious hues. By 1976, at the suggestion of her son, she began painting with acrylics, first on tin and later on masonite. By 1978 she was painting on frames she designed. In August 1978 the League of United Chicano Artists of Austin sponsored a solo exhibition of her work at Juárez-Lincoln University. In November 1979 she had another show at the Instituto Cultural Mexicano in San Antonio. She also exhibited her work in Mission, Laredo, Chicago, Mexico, and Riverside, California. She signed her works "Mom," then "Admonty." Her works often depict women, nature, and the family in a characteristically Mexican fashion. She frequently splashed the bright primary colors beyond the picture onto the frame. She did portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. In 1988 she was the subject of a presentation at the Fifty-ninth Annual LULAC Convention and at the Smithsonian Institution. She died on May 13, 1989, and is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Laredo.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Sandra Jordan, "Alice Dickerson Montemayor," in Folk Art in Texas, ed. Francis Edward Abernethy (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1985). Alice Dickerson Montemayor Papers, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin.
Activism and Social Reform
Civil Rights, Segregation, and Slavery
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