Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Budd Park

Budd Park (1913)
Budd Park

Location: St. John Avenue and Brighton Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

Opened: Budd Park opened in 1891; section of park became women-only in 1916

Closed: Park still exists; when women-only section was eliminated has yet to be determined

The herstory of womyn's spaces tends to be one of elimination, burial, and subsequent amnesia. Budd Park's history as a woman-only space is a near perfect example.

Frankly, even I was astonished when I found this particular herstory nugget, as up until now I hadn't heard of any "official" women-only public parks outside the Middle East. And to practically trip over one in my own backyard, right here in my own hometown, was little less than jaw-dropping.

Needless to say, the official Kansas City Parks and Recreation narrative offers no clue:

Budd Park

Judge Azariah Budd moved to Kansas City with his wife, Nancy, in 1879 after working several years in law. He acquired 40 acres of land and spent his time clearing and cultivating it as well as raising cattle. Budd passed away in 1889 and willed 20 acres of his property to the City, if they paid his widow $3,000 annually until her death. The City accepted the property in 1891 and transformed it into Kansas City’s second park (the first being West Prospect Triangle, now known as Andrew Drips Park).

Nancy Budd donated four additional acres to the park 10 years later, and the City acquired two more after that. In 1896, John and Adriance Van Brunt designed a distinctive frame shelter building near
center of the park. Following this construction trees, maintenance buildings and steps were added to the park. A children's play area, tennis courts, roque courts and a wading pool and a swimming basin were later added.

From here, the official history skips to 1927, and how the Van Brunt frame shelter was torn down and replaced by one of native stone designed by Edward Buehler Delk.

Budd Park Shelter (constructed 1927)

Well, it turns out that a LOT that took place here between 1896 and 1927 has been slashed from the record.  

The first indication that there was a missing story here was this article (I stumbled up this while looking for information on the aforementioned women-only parks in the Middle East):

From the Crawfordsville Review, August 8, 1916:


No Chance for Spooning in Kansas City Playground.

Kansas City, Mo.--A park exclusively for women was established by the Kansas City park board following the pleas of a business women's organization for a recreation and rest ground where women can enjoy themselves unmolested.

The site was chosen on a high point overlooking the Missouri river, where tennis courts, croquet grounds and a "Dutch oven" will be constructed and a shelter house built.

Wow! What was going on here? Where the heck was this park anyway? Shifting gears, I redirected my focus away from the Middle East and back to the Midwest so as to search anew.

Then I located this article. From the Telegraph-Republican, August 16, 1916:


(By Special Leased Wire)

Kansas City, August Mo. 16. [sic] -Kansas City's park for women has just opened. The park board is about to have a temporary shelter house erected and other improvements installed in the section of Budd park set aside for the women.

Entrance to Budd Park (no date)
The Business Women's council has employed a young woman to remain at the park and minister to the comfort of the young women who come there for recreation. The secretary will see that the girls coming to the park become acquainted and enjoy themselves. She will pay special attention to lonely girls.

Double wow. Unfortunately, I can find nothing more from the comforts of home. May be heading into the dusty archives to follow up on this. Stay tuned.

But do take note of the very heterosexual imagery in the historic postcard reproduced above. This is a classic example of the great chasm between how public spaces are typically depicted (i.e. male-female couple strolling arm-in-arm, etc.) and what actually took place in and around these spaces. The actual story is one of women organizing to create a safe space for women within an urban public park, where women would be free from the sexual harassment and violence of men. Of women fighting for and winning official authorization and funding to construct recreational facilities and shelters for the exclusive use of women and girls, and even hiring a woman to befriend "lonely girls" and facilitate social connections between female park visitors. And all this before American women had the right to vote! But there is no pretty picture illustrating all that...

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