Dutch Newman Honored
A Woman Ahead Of Her Time, She Changed The Times In Which She Lived
Jackson County Executive Assistant Miriam Hennosy (far left) and Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. celebrate Dutch Newman's remarkable life with Dutch's daughters Michele and Donnie Newman, as well as granddaughter Courtney Rice (holding great-granddaughter Emmy).
AUGUST 15, 2016 - jacksongov.org
She was born Hila Bucher Aug. 18, 1920. She died “Dutch” Newman July 27, 2016. In the intervening 95 years and 343 days that were her remarkable life, Newman didn’t just see history get made — she helped make it.
With the same adventurous spirit of the settlers who went west in the 1800s, Dutch was a 20th Century pioneer, working tirelessly to open up the political process to women.
Prior to a tribute honoring Newman’s legacy during the Jackson County Legislative meeting Monday, County Executive Frank White, Jr., observed, “Her being born the very day the U.S. Constitution was officially ratified to guarantee women the right to vote was no coincidence. It was fate.”
Engaged In ‘Political Excitement’
To put into perspective the era into which Newman was born, consider the shocking — at least by today’s standards — “reasoning” some cited for opposing the 19th Amendment guaranteeing American women the right to vote. The Nebraska Association Opposed to Women Suffragelisted “10 Reasons Why The Great Majority Of Women Do Not Want The Ballot,” among them “because the woman worker wants rest and quietude — not political excitement.”
The attitude that “a woman’s place is in the home” was relegated to caveman thinking thanks in no small part to women like Dutch Newman. She was a woman ahead of her time who helped change the times in which she lived. She engaged fully in “political excitement,” striving to get women out of the house and into mayor’s offices, county legislative chambers, state houses and congressional seats.
Newman passed away just hours after Hillary Clinton became the first woman in history to officially be nominated a major party's presidential candidate.
Crystal Williams, who earlier this year became the first woman to ever chair the Jackson County Legislature, announced her intent to work with Newman's family to establish The Dutch Fund. The fund's purpose will be, Williams said, "to help women get a step up running for public office."
Could Not Be Intimidated
Soon after marrying Phil Newman, Dutch became politically active during the 1950s. In the early ’60s she became the first woman in the Greater Kansas City area to found a political club, the Westport Landing Democratic Club. She also founded the 5th District Women’s Democratic Club, served as president of the Missouri Women’s Federation Democratic Club, and was the first woman ever appointed to serve on a state senatorial re-districting committee.
The Kansas City Star asked Newman, on the eve of her 95th birthday, about her ability to be heard among all the men at political gatherings when she was frequently the only woman in the room. She said, “They knew that my word was good, I could deliver what I said I would and they couldn’t intimidate me.”
Newman was a delegate to every Democratic National Convention from 1968 through 2016, though she was unable to attend this year’s event in Philadelphia. She served as the 5th Ward committeewoman in Jackson County for decades and was re-elected posthumously Aug. 2.
"Nothing speaks higher of Dutch than the fact she and her beloved Mel Carnahan are two people who got elected to their respective public office after they passed on,” Williams said. “That’s pretty amazing.” (In 2000 Carnahan was elected U.S. Senator 22 days after perishing in a plane crash near Goldman, Missouri.)
'She Loved Jackson County'
County Legislator Dan Tarwater III noted both Republicans and Democrats alike admired Dutch Newman's political trailblazing.
"No one had a cross word for Dutch," he said. "She used to say if she wasn't for you in an election that didn't mean she was against you."
The Legislature presented a resolution and County Executive White a proclamation to Newman's family. Dutch and Phil had three daughters, including Jackson County Parks + Rec Director Michele Newman.
"Mom just had a big love for everyone," said Michele. "She loved Jackson County.... If you have a moment that was special between you and Mom, just hold on to that. And, trust me, she's up there looking out for all us. She loved you all."
A Lifetime In Westport
Dutch Newman lived her entire life in Westport. A stretch of Westport Road — from Mill Street to Roanoke Road — was christened Dutch Newman Drive in 2006. The Dutch Newman Conference Room is located adjacent to the Legislative Chamber of the Jackson County Courthouse in downtown Kansas City.
"Dutch never asked me about politics," said Tarwater. "She'd asked me about my family. She knew my kids' names, what grades they were in. She believed community is family."
Everyone, men and women alike, owes “Dutch a debt of gratitude for opening up the political process,” County Executive White said. “She was a true believer in government of the people, by the people and for the people — all the people.”
"No one had a cross word for Dutch. She used to say if she wasn't for you in an election that didn't mean she was against you."
Hila "Dutch" Newman
1920 - 2016
Donnie Newman receives a hug from Jackson County Legislative Chairwoman Crystal Williams.