Day 2 of Women’s History Month and we’re talking about the first women elected as mayor in the United States of America.
Susanna M. Slater (born Susanna Madora Kinsey) was born on March 2nd, 1860 in Ohio. Her parents, Oliver and Terissa Ann White Kinsey, mover her to Kansas around age 12. She began attending Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University) at age 20 as a sophomore where she excelled. While at KSAC, Susanna met Lewis Allison Salter, her future husband. Susanna was forced to drop out of college in 1879, six weeks before graduation due to illness.
In 1882, the couple (married in 1880) and their first child moved to Argonia, Kansas. Here the family started a hardware store, had 9 children (in total), and were joined by more family. In ’83, a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union formed in Argonia, Susanna took part in their meetings. In 1885, the town was incorporated and the first mayor was elected. It wasn’t Susanna, it was her father, Oliver Kinsey. It was during his time in office (early 1887) that Kansas gave women the right to vote.
With the right to vote, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union held a caucus and created a list of the men they deemed worthy to be elected to local office. Susanna presided over the meetings in the president’s stead.
A group of men in town thought that the women should stay out of politics, two of them went to the caucus and heckled the women. These misogynistic pigs decided to pull a prank on Susanna Salter and the W.C.T.U. They put Susanna on the ballot for Mayor in hopes that she could only receive the votes of the W.C.T.U. and the organization would be humiliated.
Jokes on those assholes. (Foreshadowing)
On Election day when it was discovered that she was on the ballot, without her knowledge or consent, a chairman of the Republic delegation sent people to her house to ask if she would accept the job as mayor should she win. Can I first point out that it was extremely easy to prank someone into running for mayor in 1887? You didn’t even need to have a campaign. On Election Day you told them to put your name on the ballot and they did. Besides the point.
Susanna agreed to take office if she won the election and the Republican party said:
“All right, we will elect you and just show those fellows who framed up this deal a thing or two.” (x)
By the end of the election, Susanna won the vote for Mayor with two/thirds majority of the votes from the town. Those jackasses who tried to embarrass the powerful women of the W.C.T.U. instead paved the way for the first women mayor in US history.
News of Susanna’s election reached far and wide. Meetings were attended by reporters and correspondents from around the world.
Susanna, knowing how important her term was for the equality of women everywhere, handled every meeting with a firm hand and worked with the men on the council, some of whom were apart of the group that pranked her. She wanted to showcase gender equality and the strength in teamwork, that’s exactly what she did in her year long term. She also had another child during her term. #Bassass. As for the politics, not much happened in her year as mayor. It was a small town of about 500 people.
She was asked to run again but decided not to.
After her time as mayor, Susanna spoke at women’s sufferage events, helped raiser her children, moved to Oklahoma with her family. She passed away in Norman, Oklahoma in 1961 at the age of 101!
Susanna’s election to mayor all the way back in 1887 opened the doors for women in public office. She was the first mayor elected in America and showed that women belonged in politics and deserved the right to vote. It’s insane that she was elected 33 years before the 19th Amendment but shoutout to Kansas for being cool and giving women the right before the amendment.
Not only did I want to recognize Susanna on her birthday (Happy 160th!), but I had not heard of her before today. There are so many powerful women who get buried in history so I wanted to honor the lesser-known ones. Plus this year is 100 years since women were given the right to vote and this woman was a pioneer for that right.
Thank you, Susanna Salter.
I’ll be writing about a different badass woman every day of March so check out the master post here.
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Featured Image: Guide Book to Life