Kansas Women

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m your co-host Deb Bisel. You know when I moved to Kansas 20 some odd years ago, Joan Finney was Governor. And I believe that there was a time when every elected official that was serving me, was a woman. That really impressed me about Kansas. And you know Kansas from the very get go has expressed incredible confidence in its women. You know when they were writing the Wyandotte Constitution that became the law of Kansas while we were still a territory, women were given limited voting rights. You know that was pretty unheard of. They got to vote in school board elections and stuff like that and that was more than a lot of states in the east had allowed women to have or anywhere in the nation at that point. And you know Kansas has throughout had a lot of confidence in its women and for that reason I think they produced some pretty incredible women. One of them is Georgia Neese Clark Gray. She was the first women to become the U.S. Treasurer, the 29th U.S. Treasurer appointed by Harry Truman. And she grew up in the little town of Richland which basically was bought up when they were building Clinton Lake just outside of Lawrence. But she grew up in that little town and did she grow up aspiring to be a banker like her Daddy? Nope. She wanted to be an actress, so she headed off to New York. And you know for a little girl growing up in Kansas at the time, that might have been a more daring feat than actually becoming the Treasurer of the United States. She toured for years as a working actress. She studied for two years at Sergeants and then embarked on a ten year career performing throughout the United States with major traveling stock companies, appearing on stage with some of the leading actresses of the early 20th century, including Maye Robeson and Pauline Fredrick. She acquired a manager named George M. Clark and he became her first husband in 1929. The marriage ended in divorce in the mid-40s. She married Andrew Gray a journalist and press agent in 1953 and she never had any children. Now her stage career ended pretty abruptly in 1930 when her father became ill. And she felt obligated to come back to Kansas and take care of the business. She became his caretaker and by the time he died in 1937, you know there just weren’t many opportunities for her to go back to her career in acting. So, you know what, she just picked up politics and banking. And she was formidable. They were long time members of the Democratic party, her family were. And the Democrats being the perennial underdog in Kansas you know, that was no easy feat to be successful Democrats. She campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt and even though Roosevelt lost the vote in Kansas, her work for his campaign confirmed her commitment to the party. She often spoke on behalf of the Democratic candidates and considered Eleanor Roosevelt one of her friends. She began her banking career in 1935 as the assistant cashier at the Richland State Bank, founded by her father and uncle. And when she became president of the bank after her father’s death it was only one of handful of privately held banks in Kansas. She also took over the management of the towns general store as well as other family businesses, including the grain elevator. Now, Georgia Neese Clark Gray, as Treasurer of the United States, you know got to sign the money. So, next time you’re looking through your wallet look for one of those old bills that that lady signed and just remember what an incredible legacy her appointment was. We’ll be right back.