International Ladies Garment Workers Union

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Nell Donnelly Reed
Author: 
Rebekah Aycock
University of Kansas

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.

Genre: 
Physical Objects

Banner for the Coat and Suit Workers Local 270 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, as seen on display at the entrance to the Kansas City Garment District Museum.

Genre: 
Miscellaneous Documents

Death certificate for Lottie Conroy issued by the Missouri State Board of Health. She died on March 24, 1934, and her cause of death is listed as second and third degree burns resulting from her clothing catching fire.

Genre: 
Photographs
Clippings

Photograph of a woman with torn clothing, "caught in the middle of a fight between women garment workers and strike pickets," outside of a dress factory in Memphis, Tennessee.

Genre: 
Correspondence

A letter from International Ladies Garment Workers Union Special Representative Meyer Perlstein and Donnelly Garment Workers Union No. 124 President Virginia Stroup to the Donnelly Garment Company. In this letter, Perlstein and Stroup inform the company of harassment that Donnelly employees have experienced from coworkers after joining the union. Perlsten and Stroup explicitly state their intention to solve the matter peaceably.

Genre: 
Miscellaneous Documents

Lillian Wales' affidavit in Equity Case No. 2924: Donnelly Garment Company and Donnelly Garment Sales Company, Plaintiffs, vs. International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and all members of said union as defendants in this class action. In this affidavit, Wales describes the working conditions at Donnelly Garment Company, treatment she received from supervisors upon joining the union, and the layoffs of unionized operators.

Genre: 
Photographs

Photograph of the Corrigan Building at 1828 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri, occupied at the time by The Donnelly Garment Company beginning in 1928. This vantage point faces northeast on 19th Street from just east of Main Street.

Genre: 
Photographs

Photograph of the receiving department at The Donnelly Garment Company in the Corrigan Building at 1828 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri. All raw materials are received and processed in this room on the third floor.

Genre: 
Photographs

Photograph of a police officer restraining a protester at a demonstration on March 17, 1937 by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. This image was captured outside of the Gordon Brothers Garment Company, Gernes Garment Company, and Missouri Garment Company building at 2617 Grand Avenue (now Grand Boulevard), Kansas City, Missouri. The sit-in turned into a riot as violence began between garment company workers, union protesters, and police. This photograph was taken near the back entrance of the building by Kansas City Journal-Post newspaper photographer George Cauthen.

Genre: 
Clippings

Full-page advertisement by International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU) in the June 8, 1937 issue of the Kansas City Journal-Post. The ILGWU responds to criticism directed towards the union by the Kansas City Citizens' Protective Council, Inc. in a May 13, 1937 advertisement. The ILGWU also includes an excerpt of a speech made by Frank Prins at garment industry dinner in Kansas City on March 6, 1937.

Genre: 
Clippings

Front page to the February 15, 1939 issue of Justice, a magazine published by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in Jersey City, New Jersey. Pictured are three undergarment workers employed at the Hoosick Falls (NY) Undergarment Company and a cartoon of Abraham Lincoln.

Genre: 
Miscellaneous Documents

Petition for injunction in Equity Case No. 2924: Donnelly Garment Company and Donnelly Garment Sales Company, Plaintiffs, vs. International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and all members of said union as defendants in this class action. In this petition, the plaintiff asserts the ILGWU has been conspiring to force employees of the Donnelly Garment Company to join the defendant union. This includes employees already part of the Donnelly Garment Workers Union.

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