I've recently been receiving profiles of famous Kentucky women in celebration of Women's History Month. Not surprisingly, most of these women hail from the usual hot spots - Lexington, Louisville, Frankfort.
Well, I'm here to tell you far Western Kentucky has its own set of impressive women.
Growing up in Paducah, I was influenced at a young age by our female mayor Gerry B. Montgomery. She served our fair town from 1988 to 1996 proclaiming it Quilt City U.S.A. during her tenure. I was always so impressed with her strong leadership and how everyone in town always spoke of her with such respect.
I wonder how much it influenced my own political ambitions that I grew up seeing a woman so comfortable in a position of power. Something far too many young girls grow up without.
I had always assumed Gerry B. Montgomery was the first female mayor of Paducah. Imagine my surprise when I learned about Dolly McNutt. I had driven past Dolly McNutt Plaza a thousand times but never taken the time to learn about the woman for which the plaza was named.
From the Jackson Purchase History Organization,
“Madam Eloquent” was a title bestowed on Alice “Dolly” McNutt by those who heard her speak. She was the first woman to become the mayor of a second-class city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, in 1971. Dolly carried 22 of the 28 precincts and tied for another. During her tenure in office the city enjoyed many federal funds that went for improvement of the infrastructure such as improved sewers and sewage treatment facilities. Also, new water, power, and sewer lines went out to what is now Kentucky Oaks Mall and out Coleman Road. Locally, she fully funded the pension funds for both fire and police departments. Hueblein opened a plant in Paducah to produce vodka. Bill Bartleman and Berry Craig summed up the career of Mrs. Houston McNutt in the Paducah Sun on January 13, 1989. Their article reported Judge J. William Howerton saying, “She didn’t count votes before she took a position on an issue. She decided what was best and worked to accomplish that, without concern about how it was going to affect her politically.” Former Governor Julian Carroll felt Mrs. McNutt was one of the rare people who not only was intelligent, but also had the ability to communicate. “We very rarely see anyone that has both of those abilities and because of it, she had a tremendous influence in her leadership in the General Assembly and as mayor.”" (This excerpt from Paducahans, Famous and Not so Famous by Allan Rhodes, Sr. and John E. L. Robertson, Sr.; used by permission)
Dolly McNutt served in the Kentucky State House of Representatives from 1976 to 1986. An outdoor civic plaza in Paducah is named in her honor. Alice “Dolly” Hite McNutt died of cancer on January 11, 1989 and is buried beside her husband, Samuel Houston McNutt, in Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Paducah, KY.
I love the idea of a strong Kentucky women getting things done while impressing everyone with her eloquent words and sharp wit.
I love the idea of a proud history of strong Paducah women even more - continued to this day with our current mayor Gayle Kaler.
~ Sarah Stewart Holland