Nelly Don

Ever heard of Nelly Don? I didn’t think so. I was going to save this for News From You but decided it was too interesting, inspirational and hilarious to hold off. This comes from an interview with her great great nephew who filmed a documentary about her. It’s the story of the first self-made female millionaire in the US. Nelly Don designed and sold more dresses in the 20th century than any other single person in the United States.

Terence O’Malley: Nelly Don is my great, great aunt. She was royalty in our family. Consider that she started what became the largest dress manufacturing company in the world before women even had the right to vote. From 1916 to 1978 Nelly Don made 75 million dresses, making her one of the most important dress designers of the 20th century.

I always knew Nell’s story was special, but it was fading into obscurity. I felt a need to rescue it and tell it honestly. I am the first to publicly report that Nell and former U.S. presidential candidate Sen. James A. Reed (D-MO) had an affair and produced a child. My film is also the first complete telling of Nell’s kidnapping and her subsequent rescue by the Kansas City Mafia. But it is the woman herself that makes the movie; Nell was a benevolent genius and her national contributions are important to recognize.

For instance, Nell made most of the clothing for women in military service in WWII, but she refused to be a war profiteer and never took a profit from government contracts.

More on Nelly Don including film clips is here. There’s a book and a DVD, both are $25.

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