Donnelly Garment Company

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Photograph of a Christmas party given by the employees of the Donnelly Garment Company in honor of David Donnelly at the Kansas City Community Church on December 23rd, 1932.

Photograph of a police officers restraining protesters 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.

Application for membership to the Local No. 124 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, filled out by Katie L. McKinsey, age 26. At the time of application on January 18, 1934, McKinsey was employed at Donnelly Garment Company and had been a sewing machine operator for 6 years.

Wave Tobin's 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.

Photograph of a Donnelly Garment Company picnic, hosted by Nell Donnelly Reed at Winnwood Beach. This photograph of the production maintenance personnel was taken by Anderson, KC. Winnwood Beach was once located near the intersection of Northeast Chouteau Trafficway and Interstate 35.

Sylvia Hull's 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.

Photograph of the sewing department at The Donnelly Garment Company in the Corrigan Building at 1828 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri.

Photograph of The Donnelly Garment Company 1936 Christmas Party, hosted by Nell Donnelly Reed at the Pla-Mor Ballroom.

Photograph of policemen arresting protestors at a demonstration on March 17, 1937 by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Donnelly Garment Company interior

The history of the Donnelly Garment Company and its battle with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) is one that defies conventional understandings of American life in the Great Depression. It is a story of a female entrepreneur succeeding in an era of economic paralysis, and one of a union failing to organize a factory in a period when workers won substantive rights. ILGWU president David Dubinsky, Nell Donnelly Reed, and Senator James A. Reed were the principal figures in a contest to organize a single garment factory, a legal battle that came to represent much larger questions.

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