Trailblazers: The Women Behind The Independent
Social life isn’t a series of linear progressions. It’s often impossible for even close friends to recall exactly when they met. Maybe they both attended the same cocktail parties dozens of times, but never had a conversation until they were on the train at Jazzoo.
The year 2022 marks 100 years of women owning The Independent. This, too, isn’t a linear progression. We’re grateful to George Creel and Arthur Grissom, who gave us our start, and to Bob Ingram, who appeared at a crucial moment, and to Gleed Gaylord, Chip Ingram, and Jake Falcon, for all the support they have provided to their wives. Right now, though, we’re spotlighting Clara E. Kellogg and Katherine Baxter, Martha Nichols Gaylord, Laureen Maher Ingram, and Rachel Lewis Falcon.
Clara E. Kellogg and Katherine Baxter
Clara and Katherine met in the early 1900s when both were employed with the Kansas City World newspaper. (If you haven’t heard of it, that’s because it went out of business in 1908.) They were a couple from that time forward, living and working together. Their first joint venture was the St. Joseph Star, a newspaper in St. Joseph, Missouri. After selling the paper, they returned to Our Town and founded the Kellogg-Baxter Printing Company, the first printing firm to be owned by women in Kansas City. In 1909, Clara and Katherine bought The Independent from George Creel, the co-founder. (He later suggested that he had given the magazine to them, but that seems to have been an exaggeration. It’s more likely that because he was eager to move away, he agreed to a price which seemed low in retrospect. What George couldn’t have imagined was that The Independent would outlive him by more than 65 years.)
Clara and Katherine had intended to continue George’s tradition of writing about politics and encouraging reform, but, as Clara later told an interviewer, they discovered that their readers were more interested in being entertained. Much of the focus of the 1910s and 1920s was on the theater. By a happy coincidence, The Independent’s contents began including a great number of photos at a time when portrait studios in Kansas City flourished, and many vaudeville actors chose Strauss-Peyton, Hixon-Connelly, and other local photographers to take the pictures they would use for publicity purposes while traveling the country. Wedding photos proliferated, too – and along with the accompanying write-ups, they are still a boon for genealogists, historians, and others who enjoy reading about romantic interludes. Katherine was the editor, and Clara ran the business side of the magazine. The arrangement was harmonious until April 1924, when Katherine died of pneumonia. She was 43 years old, and had been ill for only a week. The next issue of The Independent included both a tribute to Katherine (one would be published every April during the rest of Clara’s tenure) and the name of the new editor. Clara, who was 15 years Katherine’s senior, might have been expected to retire fairly quickly, but that wasn’t her plan. She continued working, even taking on the job as editor in 1927. Clara always credited Katherine for much of the Magazine’s success. While the Depression raged during the 1930s, The Independent, much like the movies, provided a source of escape. People could read about country club doings, swell times at nightspots, and changing styles at fashion shows, even if those activities were beyond their budgets. Clara owned the Magazine until 1939, when she sold it to her longtime assistant, Martha Nichols Gaylord. Clara sold the Kellogg-Baxter Printing Company a few weeks before her death in January 1944. Through the years, she made her home at 1837 Pendleton Avenue, in the house that she and Katherine had shared.
Martha Nichols Gaylord
Martha joined the staff in 1928, after attending Connecticut College. More than 40 years later, in a 1969 interview with the Kansas CityStar, she noted that “I have never even used a typewriter.” Apparently, that wasn’t necessary. Martha wed Gleed Gaylord in 1932 and purchased The Independent from Clara in 1939. The magazines from the first half of the 1940s reflected the fact that the lives of readers and their families were very much affected by military activities in Europe and Asia. With the end of World War II, parties returned to the forefront, and from then on, opulence was once again the hallmark of the publication. As jets made foreign travel faster and easier, people submitted more vacation snaps from distant lands. The rise of the suburbs meant more room for entertaining: cocktails on the patio, and, as the baby boom crested, birthday parties and then teenage sleepovers in the rec room. When The Independent celebrated its 60th anniversary in 1959, Martha explained part of its appeal to a Star reporter: “The magazine is written in an intimate conversational style. For example, you don’t simply ‘get married’ in The Independent; you ‘tread the bridal path.’ You don’t ‘take a trip to Hawaii’; you ‘make an aerial safari to the paradise of the Pacific.’” Gleed served as business manager and vice president prior to his death in 1966 at the age of 62. For many years, the Gaylords lived at 420 East 44th Street, which they filled with 18th century French antiques. Martha’s wardrobe featured designs by Christian Dior and Norman Norell, along with hats by Mr. John. After decades at the top of the masthead as Mrs. Gleed Gaylord, (her preference), Martha sold the magazine to Bob Ingram in 1983. She may have been four feet 10 inches tall, but she was a dominant figure in her era.
Laurie Maher Ingram
Laurie had been assistant publisher prior to purchasing The Independent from her father-in-law, Bob Ingram, in 1996. The Maher family connection to the Magazine began some years before Laurie’s birth: the engagement of her parents, Carolyn Jean Heier and William Edward Maher, graced The Independent’s pages in 1958. Laurie graduated from Bishop Miege High School and attended The University of Kansas. She got to know Chip Ingram while they were working together in a giftware business. The two wed in November 1990. They were already the parents of two daughters when Laurie took on the responsibilities of being publisher, and they would later add a son – and numerous pets – to their household. Laurie often chronicled her home life in her “Publisher’s Note” column: “I realize that, to my children, my childhood was somewhere between the dinosaur era and the invention of T.V.”
During Laurie’s years, The Independent went from being primarily in black-and-white with an occasional splash of color to including spreads with profusion of hues. The Independent celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gala in 1999. Early in the 21st century, the publication schedule changed to every other Saturday; this led to significantly thicker issues and a much less frazzled staff. Mirroring the readers’ activities, many of the features were focused on philanthropic gatherings, and the stand-alone Charitable Events Calendar was created. Laurie herself has served in a variety of leadership roles for local organizations, notably as the chairman of the Lyric Opera Ball. Throughout the Magazine’s history, the offices had been Downtown. This changed in 2004, with a move from the Argyle Building on 12th Street to 4233 Roanoke Road in Westport. Following the sale of the Magazine in 2017, Laurie embarked on a career in real estate.
Rachel Lewis Falcon
The spring of 2017 was a time of significant – and happy – changes for Rachel. April 1st (no fooling!) marked the first issue of The Independent with her name as publisher. The following month, she wed Jake Falcon. Rachel, the daughter of Kenna Bratcher Lewis and James Lewis III, graduated from The Pembroke Hill School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in classical antiquity from The University of Kansas. A member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority, she is a BOTAR, class of 2011. Rachel loves the printed word, and her column, “Rachel’s Reads,” attests to the variety of her interests, including modern literature, mythology, and history. In 2018, she oversaw the project of moving the offices to Kansas. It’s a sign of how the city has grown that 2400 West 75 Street in Prairie Village, a pastoral setting in Clara and Katherine’s time, is now a hub of activity. When the global pandemic caused the sudden shutdown of nearly everything in March 2020, there was no blueprint for how to proceed. Rachel recognized that the main goal, aside from taking steps to ensure everyone’s safety, was to continue publishing. Keeping this in mind, Rachel has worked with The Independent’s staff, advertising clients, and subscribers to find ways to ensure that everyone stays connected.
Featured in the March 19, 2022 issue of The Independent.
By Heather N. Paxton
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