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: 
Miscellaneous Documents

Meyer Perlstein'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.

Genre: 
Miscellaneous Documents

Fern Sigler'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. In this affidavit, Sigler describes harrassment from supervisors and coworkers at the Donnelly Garment Company after joining a union.

Genre: 
Photographs

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

Genre: 
Photographs

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.

Genre: 
Photographs

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. 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: 
Miscellaneous Documents

Production statistics for the Donnelly Garment Company for the calender years 1936 through 1938. During these three years, the company produced 5,178,474 articles of clothing worth a total of $16,375,096.67.

Genre: 
Photographs

An excerpt of the examination of Elizabeth Gates Reeves by Senator James A. Reed. Reeves, an employee of the Donnelly Garment Company, is shown a series of 27 photographs by Reed and is asked to describe details about the pictures. These included photographs include exterior and interior shots of the Corrigan Building at 1828 Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri, occupied at the time by The Donnelly Garment Company beginning in 1928. Pictured are company parties, employees, and equipment.

Genre: 
Miscellaneous Documents

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. In this affidavit, Tobin discusses the consolidation of multiple ILGWU locals, wage improvements in much of the industry, and his role with the local organizations.

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