Reed, Nell Donnelly

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In a 1933 interview with journalist Jerome Beatty, Tom Pendergast cast himself as a protector of community values, boldly claiming that his political organization’s work had long been focused on stamping out any instance of vice or immorality in Kansas City: “We won’t have anything to do with helping drug peddlers or prostitutes.

Nell Donnelly Reed

Born Ellen Quinlan in Parsons, Kansas, Nell Donnelly Reed was the founding owner of the Donnelly Garment Company. The women’s clothing line became a national sensation. Reed’s was the first company to mass produce affordable and attractive ready-to-wear clothing for women. She was one of many people to capitalize on the garment industry’s move to Kansas City and other spaces outside of the Northeast. Reed was a talented designer who envisioned the mass production of flattering, beautiful clothing for working class women. After selling a few of her new designs to local stores, Reed decided to open her own shop. This was the start of the Donnelly Garment Company, officially founded in 1916. The innovation and glamour of Reed’s professional and social life in Kansas City, especially after her advantageous marriage to former-Senator James A. Reed, is clouded by accusations of her abusive managerial practices and her clashes with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union.

James Alexander Reed

James Reed was once an outsized figure in Missouri life and politics. An attorney by trade, Reed brought his skills as a shrewd prosecutor to each position he held in state and local government. A loyal ally to those he supported and a bitter enemy to those he disagreed with, Reed was sure to provoke strong responses in all who knew him. And though he was a polarizing figure in his day, often facing severe criticism and opposition, Reed never stopped fighting for what he believed in: a limited federal government, the sovereignty of the states, and individual liberty.

Group portrait of Donnelly Garment Company employees at company Thanksgiving party, November 18, 1938.

Group portrait of costumed Donnelly Garment Company employees attending a Halloween Party.

Group portrait of uniformed Donnelly Garment Company employees at work in the Corrigan Building at 1828 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri. A Santa Claus figure stands on far left.

Group portrait of Donnelly Garment Company employees at company Christmas party.

Photograph with interior view of Donnelly Garment Company Christmas program at the Pla-Mor Ballroom.

Portrait of men and women in costume at the Donnelly Garment Company Valentine's Day Party, February 8, 1929.

Group portrait of Nell Donnelly Reed and employees at the Nelly Don Pioneers group luncheon in Mrs. Reed's office, June 2, 1937.

Group portrait of men and women in wedding attire at a Donnelly Garment Company Valentine's Day Party, February 8, 1929.

Group portrait of Donnelly Garment Company employees in costume at company Hollywood Blowout party.

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