American activist and politician Susanna Madora Salter was one of the first women to hold a political office in the United States. She served as mayor of Argonia, Kansas. She was also the first woman elected to serve as mayor. But did you know how she became mayor?
A group of men added Susanna M. Salter to the Argonia, Kansas, mayoral ballot in 1887 as a practical joke to deter women from running for office. She then prevailed with a 2/3 vote, becoming the nation’s first female mayor.
Electing the First Ever Female Mayor, Susanna Salter
In 1887, Kansas allowed women to vote, but only in local elections. Susanna didn’t know she was on the ballot when the polls opened. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union concentrated its attention this year on one key issue: the implementation of Kansas’s prohibition laws.
They put forward candidates who shared their views for local offices. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was Susanna’s organization. The union voted en masse for Susanna after learning that she was on the ballot instead of sticking with their mayoral candidate. Her home was visited by a delegation from the neighborhood Republican Party. Republicans endorsed her with their votes. They decided that Susanna would win the position of mayor with a two-thirds majority. (Source: Owlcation)
Susanna Salter’s Victory
On April 4, 1887, Susanna won the mayoral election, earning praise from people all over the world. International newspapers published articles about it. People from as far away as Sweden and South Africa wrote about her victory.
Her election sparked a lot of debate about the prospect of electing female mayors in other towns and even entire cities. The petticoat rule, which held that women shouldn’t have the vote because 90% of them don’t want it, was discussed. (Source: Owlcation)
Serving as the First Female Mayor
Susanna and her family continued to reside in Argonia, Kansas, after her term as mayor ended. Her husband bought land in Alva, Oklahoma, in 1893. After ten years there, they moved to Augusta in Woods County, Oklahoma. Her husband established the Headlight newspaper while there and also practiced law.
The couple then relocated to Carmen, Oklahoma, with their family. In 1916, Susanna’s spouse passed away. Later, she relocated to Norman, Oklahoma. While her younger children were attending the University of Oklahoma, Susanna spent time there with them. She lived in Norman for the remainder of her life. Susanna never again ran for public office but remained interested in political and religious issues. (Source: Owlcation)
Susanna Salter’s Legacy
On March 17, 1961, Susanna Salter passed away. She had two weeks left before turning 101. In Argonia, Kansas, she was laid to rest alongside her spouse.
In 1933, an honorary bronze plaque was erected in the town square of Argonia, Kansas. It pays tribute to Susanna Salter, the nation’s first female mayor. The residence she shared with her family while serving as mayor was added to the National Register of Historic Places in September 1972. (Source: Owlcation)
Image from HistoryHustle