Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kansas City's REAL First Ladies

Gloria Squitiro may think she's KC's First Lady, but she doesn't hold a candle to these fabulous gals and their pioneering work:

Berenice Chouteau - Born 1801, Berenice married Francois Chouteau when she was 18 and they moved to the present-day area of Randolph Heights. Berenice was the first woman in the area, since all the other residents were male traders, trappers, etc. With her husband often away, Berenice filled her time visiting Native American villages, tending their sick and working to convert them to Christianity, as well as putting on musical evenings full of eating and dancing. When she was 37, her husband died and she built a house for herself near Third and Grand where she could watch the wagon trains from her front porch. She later helped to fund the first Catholic Church in the Kansas City area, St. Regis.

Sarah Coates - Born in 1829 as a Quaker in Pennsylvania, Sarah and her husband lived the uneasy life of Abolitionists in a slave area after moving to Kansas City in 1856. She was considered the "leading spirit of her day." She was extremely well educated and progressive in her thoughts, frequently giving lectures that expressed "unusual" ideas for any woman of the 1850's. She organized the first Women's Christian Association (now the YWCA) to help homeless and poor women and children, the Social Science Club to stimulate intellectual interests in women, the History Club of 1882, The Kansas City Art Association, The Kansas City Women's Exchange (now the Central Exchange), The Ramobai Association and the Protestant Home Association. She was also instrumental in bringing the newly-founded women's movement to Kansas City through the Interstate Women's Conference in 1892. After this, she was elected president of the Equal Suffrage Association of Kansas.

Annie Chambers - Annie came to Kansas City in 1869 and started a house of prostitution at Third and Wyandotte, which she would run for over 40 years. In 1932, she'd run away and become a prostitute in Indianapolist where she first became a "madam." She took great pride in her attractive girls and gorgeous 24 room mansion, which sometimes doubled as a hotel for the wealthiest men's guests. When, in 1913, the city decided to shut down the red light district, Annie kept her house open by bribing officials for ten years. After that, she shut down her house and turned it into a rooming house for railroad workers. At this time, City Union Mission was located directly behind her house and after hearing a sermon through her windows, Annie converted to Christianity and opened her home to lectures and tours about "the wages of sin," neatly earning a 50 cent profit for each visitor.

Dr. Katherine Richardson - A fellow red head, Katherine graduated from medical school in 1887 and decided to take her practice out West. She moved to Kansas City (after marrying in Wisconsin) in 1893. Four years later, she received a call that a woman was going from saloon to saloon in the West Bottoms, trying to give away a crippled five year old girl. They took her to a small maternity hospital where they rented a bed for her (at $5 a week), gave her hip surgery and eventually found her a good home. The organization running this hospital abandoned it, so Katherine and her sister decided to take up the lease themselves to create a hospital for crippled children. To keep the hospital alive, they made constant requests for support, receving food, garments, quilts and clothing as well as monetary donations. Mercy Hospital (now Children's Mercy) was constructed in 1916 at 1414 Highland, where Katherine developed a national reputation for her work as a surgeon. Children came from all over the country to be operated on by her, but she still often gave up simple necessities to keep her hospital running.

I got all this info from Voices Across Time: Profiles of Kansas City's Early Residents.

Related posts:
Babes In History and Fiction: Part 3
Girls Who Graffiti
You Want Me to Put That WHERE?!?!

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Tony said...

Awesome. Wish I woulda found this earlier. Consider it linked for the evening edition.

Nice research!!!

May said...

Hey thanks! I do what I can :)

Leigh Ann said...

This is awesome!!!! Thank you!!!