Portrait of Frank P. Walsh, progressive lawyer and labor advocate. Taken between 1910 and 1925.
Photograph of Frank P. Walsh, his wife Katherine, and three of their children. Taken between 1918 and 1921.
Photograph of Frank P. Walsh, progressive lawyer and labor advocate. Taken between 1911-1920.
Through the Woman’s City Club, Women’s Forward Kansas City Committee, and other civic organizations, women in Kansas City exemplified the principles of benevolence, reform, and equality in their campaign to oppose the Pendergast machine and eventually replace it in a “clean sweep.” Wielding brooms as potent props symbolizing the clean-up of corruption, and with the campaign slogan, "Ballots and Brooms vs. Bosses and Bullets," the women reformers joined the United Campaign Committee in 1939-1940 to champion an amended city charter and a slate of reform-minded candidates for public office.
Of the thousands of women volunteers who devoted time, energy, and resources to the reform campaigns of 1940, one woman was acknowledged by all as their singular leader: Claude Gorton. As the designated chairman of the Women's Division of the United Campaign Committee, she exhibited exemplary leadership throughout the reform efforts of the late 1930s. Indeed, Gorton is perhaps best known for her leadership role in the 1940 municipal elections, which resulted in a “clean sweep” and replaced the remnants of the Pendergast machine with a reformed city charter and new candidates.
American women’s growing participation in public and political life during the 1920s was the cause of much national tension and debate. While many Americans felt that a woman’s proper place ought to be confined to the home, increasing numbers of women demanded influence outside that narrow sphere. After gaining the right to vote in 1920, women in Kansas City made their influence felt through their work in women’s clubs like the Athenaeum. This early training in civic reform efforts would ultimately position Kansas City women as one of the more powerful forces for change during the reform elections of 1940.
Fondly remembered as the “dean of Missouri club women,” Phoebe Jane Ess was an active and energizing force in Kansas City public life during the many years she lived there (1872-1934). Passionate and outspoken, she brought to bear the courage of her convictions on a variety of contentious issues of the day. Ess was a staunch advocate of women’s suffrage, a strong supporter of Prohibition, and she demanded educational reforms for the children in her community. She also worked alongside other like-minded activists to root out corruption in local politics at a time when machine rule dominated Kansas City. Over the course of her long life, Phoebe Jane Ess worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Kansas Citians. Notably, she was a model reformer at a time when women’s sphere of influence generally did not reach beyond the walls of the home.
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.
Photograph of eleven women engaged in various activities in the parlor at the Girls' Hotel at 1805 Jefferson. This boarding home was sponsored by the Council of Clubs. The image is featured in the photograph section of the October 29, 1933 issue of the Kansas City Star.
Photograph of seated women waiting at the employment bureau maintained at the Young Women's Christian Association at 1020 McGee. The image is featured in the photograph section of the October 29, 1933 issue of the Kansas City Star.
Portrait of Elsie Child (Mrs. H. C. Child), president of the Kansas City Athenaeum 1938-1940. Portrait of Leona Koehler Ryan (Mrs. L. K. Ryan), president of the Kansas City Athenaeum 1940-1942.
Athenaeum meeting notes documenting internal discussion about direct political involvement. A list of questions about how club forum time should be used. Forums were club wide events addressing issues of the day.
News clipping of Flavel Robertson, Democratic mayoral candidate in 1940 reform election, at Athenaeum Forum.
News clipping summarizing pledges made by mayoral candidates John B. Gage and Flavel Robertson at Athenaeum forum in 1940.
News clipping detailing 1940 mayoral candidates present at Athenaeum forum. Candidates addressed club members at the Athenaeum club house at 900 Linwood Boulevard.
Portrait and contact information for Flo Beach, Kansas City resident in 1905.
Portrait and contact information for Mollie Mantell, Kansas City Resident in 1905.