Turner, Adella Kelsey (1856–1938)

By: Diana Church

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: March 19, 2021

Adella K. Turner, Dallas clubwoman and community leader, was born on January 13, 1856, in Marshall, Texas, the daughter of William H. and Sarah M. (Patillo) Kelsey. After her parents died, four-year-old Adella and her older brother lived with the Gustave Frank family in Jefferson. She married Edward P. Turner in Fort Worth on June 5, 1879, and shortly thereafter moved to Dallas, where her husband managed three Texas and Pacific Railway ticket offices. The Turners had four sons, only two of whom survived to adulthood. Mrs. Turner launched her campaign for "correcting wrongs and abuses wherever woman's influence is needed" as president of the Oak Cliff Improvement Association (1903). She was president of the City Federation of Women's Clubs (1903–04), the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs (1904–06), and the Dallas Woman's Forum (1906–08). Because of her expanding interest in the welfare and education of children, in 1908 she became one of the first women to serve on the school board in Dallas County. In 1910, when her term of office on the school board expired, she once again became president of the Dallas Woman's Forum. Between 1910 and 1919 she led the forum into reform of sanitary conditions and the welfare work for delinquent and underprivileged children. In 1919 she began another two-year term as president of the Dallas Federation of Women's Clubs. In 1921 her interest in the legal rights of women led to the formation of the Women's Good Citizenship Association, which later became the Dallas League of Women Voters. After over fifty years of involvement in the women's club movement, Adella Turner died on June 6, 1938, in Dallas. She was a member of the First Unitarian Church of Dallas.

Visit the Texas Women Project's standalone website

The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.

Visit Website

Karen J. Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist: True Womanhood Redefined, 1868–1914 (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1980). Diana Church, "Mrs. E. P. Turner: Clubwoman, Reformer, Community Builder," Heritage News, Summer 1985. Martha Lavinia Hunter, A Quarter of a Century of the Dallas Woman's Forum, 1906–1931 (Dallas: Cockrell, 1932).

  • Women
  • Women's Clubs
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

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

Diana Church, “Turner, Adella Kelsey,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/turner-adella-kelsey.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
March 19, 2021

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: