Civic Housekeepers and More: Kansas City Women v. Pendergast

Kay Barnes
Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes tells the stories of women who worked to bring down “Boss” Tom Pendergast’s political machine in the late 1930s and early ’40s, helping to end 20 years of mob rule in the city.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
2:00 pm
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In the 1920s and '30s, Kansas City was defined by the corruption of the political machine run by “Boss” Tom Pendergast. But the machine finally was brought down, in no small part through the efforts of reform-minded women.

Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes tells the story of these “civic housekeepers” whose fight came to a dramatic conclusion with the ballot-box victories of 1940, Pendergast’s imprisonment in the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, and the smashing of machine-mob rule.

Barnes, currently a nontraditional student at the University of Kansas, served two terms (1997-2007) as the first woman mayor of Kansas City, Missouri. One of the first two women on the Jackson County Legislature, she was elected to the Kansas City City Council in 1979.

She is currently Park University’s Distinguished Professor of Public Leadership and Founding Director of the Center for Leadership, where she teaches in the MPA program, provides leadership coaching, workshops and leadership training. She joined Park immediately following her successful terms as mayor in May 2007.