Women's Leadership Fountain
Originally named the Ninth Street Fountain, the Women’s Leadership Fountain was the second public fountain built in Kansas City. Designed by George Kessler and John Van Brunt, the limestone fountain was completed in 1899 as part of the City Beautiful Movement. It is one of 48 city-owned fountains and is currently the oldest working fountain in Kansas City. The fountain also memorializes thirteen women who have made tremendous contributions to the Kansas City community.
The Women's Leadership Fountain is the oldest working fountain in Kansas City.
A view of the Women's Leadership Fountain was built in 1899 as part of the City Beautiful Movement.
A detailed view of the Women's Leadership Fountain.
The Women's Leadership Fountain c.1920. Courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
George Kessler used Drexel Boulevard in Chicago as inspiration for The Paseo. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Mexico City's "Paseo De La Reforma" was built in 1864 and is the namesake of The Paseo boulevard in Kansas City.
Alice Berry Graham (1850-1913)
Katherine Berry Richardson (1860-1933). Courtesy of Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library.
Ada Crogman Franklin (1886-1983). Courtesy of Black Archives of Mid-America
Ellen (Nell) Donnelly Reed (1899-2004). Courtesy of State Historical Society of Missouri.
Caroline Benton Cockefair (1884-1964)
Esther Swirk Brown (1917-1970). Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society.
Madalyne Pinkston Brock (1894-1990). Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society.
Myrtle Page Fillmore (1845-1931)
Nelle Elizabeth Peters (1884-1974)
Phoebe Jane Ess (1850-1934). Courtesy of Jackson Country Historical Society.
Mary Harmon Weeks (1851-1940), seated in the middle surrounded by her students of the Central High graduating class of 1878 at their 50 year reunion in 1928. Courtesy of Union Station Kansas City Archives via Kansas City Museum, Kansas City, Missouri.
Backstory and Context
In 1893, landscape architect George Kessler introduced the City Beautiful Movement as part of the newly established parks and boulevard system. In his plan, Kessler stated, "The city should have some place where everybody can see beautiful flowers, and flowers more or less rare, in abundance and under conditions of artistic grouping or display. The 'Paseo' offers this opportunity." Named after a major thoroughfare in Mexico City called the "Paseo de la Reforma,” The Paseo was designed after Drexel Boulevard in Chicago, Illinois, and was built to connect Independence to Kansas City. In 1899, the beautifully landscaped boulevard became an attraction and source of local pride.
In 1899, the Ninth Street Fountain (now Women’s Leadership Fountain) was the second fountain built in Kansas City; the first was at 15th and The Paseo but no longer exists. The oval-shaped fountain is made of limestone and originally contained a multi-tiered vertical spray nozzle. The flowing water drained directly to the sewer, but in 1970 after nearly two decades of disuse, the basin was improved and an underground electrical system and circulation pump were added. A partial restoration was implemented in 1989 with funds raised from Central Exchange, an organization that promotes women's equity. At this time, the fountain was renamed The Women’s Leadership Fountain. The full restoration was completed in 2003 by STRATA Architecture with funds from the sale of city property.
Thirteen women who overcame adversity and made notable contributions to the city are memorialized in the fountain:
Myrtle Page Fillmore (1845-1931) - School teacher, author, and founder of Unity School of Christianity
Phoebe Jane Ess (1850-1934) - Advocate of social reform and women’s suffrage, the “Dean” of Missouri club women
Alice Berry Graham (1850-1913) - Dentist, co-founder of Children’s Mercy Hospital
Mary Harmon Weeks (1851-1940) - Advocate for education, founder of the first Parent Teacher Association in Missouri, and the first president of the Athenaeum, the oldest active Kansas City women's club
Bertha Manheimer Leiberman (1854-1929) - first president and honorary life president of the Greater Kansas City Section of the National Council of Jewish Women
Katherine Berry Richardson (1860-1933) - Doctor, co-founder of Children’s Mercy Hospital
Nelle Elizabeth Peters (1884-1974) - Prolific architect
Caroline Benton Cockefair (1884-1964) - Distinguished English professor from University of Missouri
Ada Crogman Franklin (1886-1983) - Publisher of The Kansas City Call newspaper
Guadalupe Bribiesca de Garcia (1893-1977) - Organizer of the Guadalupe Center and community events
Madalyne Pinkston Brock (1894-1990) - Activist and businesswoman, established the Madalyn Brock Foundation
Ellen (Nell) Donnelly Reed (1899-2004) - Entepenuer, founder of Donnelly Garment Company
Esther Swirk Brown (1917-1970) - promoted social justice and equality in education
The Women's Leadership Fountain, City of Fountains. Accessed June 24th 2022. https://cityoffountains.org/the-womens-leadership-fountain/.
Women’s Leadership Fountain, Meyer Monument & Fitzsimons’ Memorial, STRATA Architecture. Accessed June 24th 2022. http://www.strata-arch.com/projects/womens-leadership-fountain-meyer-monument-fitzsimons-memorial/.
Ninth and Paseo Fountain, Kansas City Public Library. Accessed June 24th 2022. https://kchistory.org/image/ninth-and-paseo-fountain.
The Paseo's Past, Kansas City Public Library. February 27th 2019. Accessed June 24th 2022. https://www.kclibrary.org/blog/paseos-past.
Discover KC, KC Parks & Rec. Accessed June 24th 2022. https://kcparks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/2009YIRFinal.pdf.