Members Only Area
Bookmark and Share
sidebar menu icon


DABBS, ELLEN LAWSON (1853–?). Ellen Lawson Dabbs, physician, early women's-rights activist, and reform writer, the daughter of Col. and Mrs. Henry M. Lawson, was born in Rusk County on April 25, 1853. She attended school in Rusk and Upshur counties. After a brief teaching stint she enrolled in Furlow Masonic College in Americus, Georgia, from which she graduated first in her class. She returned to Texas and taught school for five years before meeting J. W. Dabbs, a merchant from Sulphur Springs. Dabbs, a widower, had four children from his first marriage; the marriage of J. W. Dabbs and Ellen Lawson produced five more children. After the birth of her children Mrs. Dabbs attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa, and a school of midwifery in St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1890 she returned to Sulphur Springs, where she practiced medicine and acquired an interest in a newspaper. In 1891 she moved to Fort Worth, where she wrote in support of various reforms. She eventually became a writer for the National Economist, a National Farmers' Alliance newspaper based in Washington, D.C., and in 1892 she served as a delegate from Texas to the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union convention at St. Louis. That same year she was also a delegate to the state Woman's Christian Temperance Union convention and presided as the state chairman of the Woman's Southern Council.

Ellen Dabbs helped organize the state's first suffrage society, the Texas Equal Rights Association, and served in 1893 as corresponding secretary and a member of the publication committee. The following year she helped found a local auxiliary in Fort Worth and was elected corresponding secretary. She addressed the Dallas chapter on the need for the moral influence of women in politics and legislation and defended women's rights in the Dallas Morning News. In 1893 she organized the Texas Woman's Council (later the State Council of Women of Texas) at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, for the purpose of bringing women's organizations concerned with philanthropy, social reform, education, literature, and the fine arts to an increased awareness of one another's activities. During her second term as president the council became a state affiliate of the National Council of Women, and Mrs. Dabbs was the presiding officer in 1895 when the Texas Woman's Council laid the cornerstone for a permanent women's building on the state fairgrounds in Dallas.


Texas Equal Suffrage Association Scrapbook, Austin History Center. Melissa Gilbert Wiedenfeld, Women in the Texas Farmers' Alliance (M.A. thesis, Texas Tech University, 1983). Frances E. Willard and Mary A. Livermore, eds., American Women (2 vols., New York: Mast, Crowell, and Kirkpatrick, 1897; rpt., Detroit: Gale Research, 1973-).

Melissa G. Wiedenfeld


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

Melissa G. Wiedenfeld, "DABBS, ELLEN LAWSON," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed October 09, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.