In the years following the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which extended women the right to vote nationwide, women in Kansas City undertook efforts to reform municipal government, serve in elected office, break through traditional barriers to employment in various professions, or lead social and civic clubs in improving the health and welfare of disadvantaged populations. Their efforts often influenced key moments in the city’s history, such as the 1925 city charter that unintentionally helped Tom Pendergast consolidate power and the “clean sweep” reforms that followed in the wake of Pendergast’s indictment in 1939.
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.