Women’s Rights and Activism

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.

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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. We put the whole strength of the organization to work to slug those people. And to slug them hard.”

KANSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY | DIGITAL HISTORY
Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict,1855-1865.
The Pendergast Years, Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression.
KC History, Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library.