A temporary exhibit at the Fort Worth Public Library reminds us when something is good for one, it can be good for all. The exhibit celebrates 60 years of service by a group of women committed to their community.
"It is our goal always to lift as we climb," said Mattie Peterson Compton, co-chair of the 60 Years of Service Exhibition curated by the Fort Worth chapter of The Links, Inc. Compton and co-chair Kalisha Holland went through years of photographs and mementos. Almost 50 now on display showcase decades of history.
"Some of the women in our chapter had to overcome some things in 1959, some of which we still struggle with today, but in order to get us where we are today, they were successful," Holland said.
It was December 5, 1959, when the Fort Worth chapter of the national organization was chartered. Pictures show the group of women who were the first members.
One of their early projects was in 1960. The members made dolls so that African-American children in the hospital would see themselves reflected in toys given at Christmas. "I think that's really the kind of ground work that we have continued to do, focusing on youth and services to youth throughout the community for 60 years," Compton said.
Just as important are the women who broke through barriers to reach new heights in business, education and public service.
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The exhibit highlights the late Dionne Bagsby who was the first African-American and first woman elected to the Tarrant County Comissioners Court. She died in 2019 and left her mark as a trailblazer for the disenfranchised.
Erma Johnson Hadley died in 2015 at the age of 73 leaving behind a history-making tenure as a founding faculty member of Tarrant County College. In 2010, she became the first African-American and first woman to serve as TCC chancellor.
"Erma made sure lots of other women had opportunites at Tarrant County College," Compton said. "She made sure there wa big diversity in terms of faculty, programming and all of those are things that we as an organization advocate for."
Hadley achieved more firsts as she represented Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. She was the first woman and first African-American to serve as chair of the board. And once again, she used that platform to open doors for others.
Compton credits Hadley for shepherding policies that made it possible for Norma Roby to open a business at DFW Airport more than 30 years ago and becoming an industry pioneer.
"Norma was a person who was business minded and in fact, the first African-American and only African-American woman who has chaired the Fort Worth Black Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce," Compton said. "She was interested in entrepreneurship, but to have that opportunity to break into a venue where there were no African Americans before that meant being prepared and then seizing the opportunity."
The exhibit is a walk through history with glimpses at the struggles and success of so many who realized that together, they could make a bigger impact. It also serves a challenge to the Links, Inc. members who now stand on the shoulders of those history-making women.
"Our organization is made up of 43 active members who are part of the business community in Fort Worth," Holland said. "And when people come in this room, I want people to see we are not only powerful in our own right but are able to make huge impacts when all of us work together."
The 60 Years of Service Exhibition will be on display at the Fort Worth Public Library - Central Library, 500 W. 3rd Street, until Friday, Feb. 14.