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Kittie Hays on the Santa Fe Trail

Council Grove, Kansas Territory, was an exciting place in the mid-1800s. And Kittie Hays Houghton, adopted daughter of lifelong bachelor, trader, and frontiersman Seth Millington Hays, was at the center of it all. Aunt Sally, a free woman, cared for the little girl as if she were her own while working alongside Seth in the trading post business on the Santa Fe Road. Constantly underfoot, Kittie collected stories of the men, oxen and mules who moved the heavy freight to and from Santa Fe, the Kaw tribe's last years before being removed to Oklahoma Territory, and the Westport entrepreneurs who partnered with Seth including James Hamilton and Colonel A.G. Boone.

Kitty Frank adapts the Kittie Hays story for school and family audiences from second grade, up, including festivals, and a wide variety of adult audiences in every imaginable setting.










The Nelly Don Story

The fifth daughter in a large Irish Catholic family, Nell Quinlan of Parsons, Kansas, discovered a talent for converting dowdy hand-me-downs into pretty frocks. To her sewing skills she added a talent for business and a wise first marriage to create the Nelly Don fashion brand which revolutionized women’s ready to wear clothing. By the age of 27, Nell was the second self-made woman millionaire in the United States and a cornerstone of the soon to be famous Kansas City Garment District. At its apex, the Nelly Don brand produced 5,000 dresses a day, employing over 1,000 seamstresses. Nell patented the Handy Dandy apron as a low cost item to replace dress sales and keep her workers employed during wartime. Throughout the company's history, Nell paid the highest wages and provided a progressive benefit package including health care coverage and tuition assistance. In response to reporters’ questions about a woman's ability to be successful as an entrepreneur, Nell replied, “It takes no more energy than bridge. And I don’t like bridge.” We will meet Nell Donnelly-Reed in 1947 as she shares her plans for the new factory near 18th and Vine.

Of course, that’s only part of Nell’s story. She became a mother under mysterious circumstances, was kidnapped, held for ransom and then rescued by Johnny Lazio, the organized mob boss of Kansas City. Nell's second husband was the controversial mayor, attorney, presidential candidate and retired U.S. Senator James A. Reed.

Performances of the Nelly Don story are best customized for audiences of middle-school aged people on up. Stories chose for younger audiences will have an emphasis on using creativity to solve problems for others while making a living for oneself—encouraging entrepreneurship. Older audiences will also hear more about her personal life, including her kidnapping, and her relationship with Senator Reed and his relationship with the mob.

Kitty Frank

Historical performer Kitty Frank lives near Allen, Kansas with her husband of thirty five years in an area that was formerly Kaw tribal land. Like Kittie Hays and the Kaw people, Kitty Frank acknowledges the persistent extremes of the Flint Hills--the dramatic beauty of her homeland contrasting with the challenges that geography and climate present for those trying to making a living there. She sells vintage clothing online and designed and produced spandex activewear, helping her identify with Nell Donnelly’s proficiency in manufacturing and selling clothing. Kitty is a writer of fiction who has designed, produced, and spandex activewear. She has worked in grant writing, grant administration, non-profit management, youth development, health care quality outcomes improvement and several bouts as a political candidate. Her degree in economics is from Emporia State University. Her family has ignited a concern about soldiers and their families. This concern is evident in her fiction and playwriting. Kitty welcomes the opportunity to shape a performance for your particular audience.

Fees: $350 plus travel

Contact information:

Kitty Frank
3229 Road K
Allen, KS 66833
(620) 528-3465


This site was created in 2003 by the Kansas Alliance of Professional Historic Performers and Ride into History Cultural and Educational Project, Inc. with an Attraction Development Grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing Travel & Tourism Development Division

Original site concept and development by Danny C. Boyce Computer and Network Support and Consulting, Emporia Kansas

Ongoing website maintenance performed by Megan Matile

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