Susanna M. Salter
Susanna Madora Salter
Salter in 1887
|Mayor of Argonia, Kansas|
April 4, 1887 – 1888
Susanna Madora Kinsey
March 2, 1860
|Died||March 17, 1961 (aged 101)|
|Resting place||Argonia Cemetery|
Lewis Allison Salter
(m. 1880; died 1916)
|Alma mater||Kansas State Agricultural College|
Susanna Madora Salter (née Kinsey; March 2, 1860 – March 17, 1961) was a U.S. politician and activist. She served as mayor of Argonia, Kansas, becoming the first woman elected as mayor and one of the first women elected to any political office in the United States.
Early life and education
Susanna Madora Kinsey was born March 2, 1860, near the unincorporated community of Lamira in Smith Township, Belmont County, Ohio. She was the daughter of Oliver Kinsey and Terissa Ann White Kinsey, the descendants of Quaker colonists from England.
At age 12, she moved to Kansas with her parents, settling on an 80-acre farm near Silver Lake, Kansas. Eight years later, she entered Kansas State Agricultural College (present-day Kansas State University) in Manhattan. She was permitted to skip her freshman year, having taken college-level courses in high school, but was forced to drop out six weeks short of graduation due to illness.
While a student, she met Lewis Allison Salter (1858-1916), an aspiring attorney and the son of former Kansas Lieutenant Governor Melville J. Salter. They married soon thereafter and moved to Argonia, where she was active in the local Woman's Christian Temperance Union and Prohibition Party organizations, and became acquainted with nationally known temperance activist Carrie Nation.
In 1883, she gave birth to the first baby born in Argonia, Francis Argonia Salter. Lewis and Susanna Salter had a total of nine children, one of whom was born during her tenure as mayor and died in infancy. Following the city's incorporation in 1885, her father and husband were elected as the city's first mayor and city clerk, respectively.
Salter was elected mayor of Argonia on April 4, 1887. Her election was a surprise because her name had been placed on a slate of candidates as a prank by a group of men against women in politics hoping to secure a loss that would humiliate women and discourage them from running. Because candidates did not have to be made public before election day, Salter herself did not know she was on the ballot before the polls opened. When, on election day itself, she agreed to accept office if elected, the Women's Christian Temperance Union abandoned its own preferred candidate and voted for Salter en masse. Additionally, the local Republican Party Chairman sent a delegation to her home and confirmed that she would serve and the Republicans agreed to vote for her, helping to secure her election by a two-thirds majority.
Although her term was uneventful, her election generated national interest from the press, sparking a debate regarding the feasibility of other towns following Argonia's lead, which ranged from objections to "petticoat rule" to a "wait-and-see" attitude.
One of the first city council meetings over which the newly elected Mrs. Salter presided was attended by a correspondent of the New York Sun. He wrote his story, describing the mayor's dress and hat, and pointing out that she presided with great decorum. He noted that several times she checked irrelevant discussion, demonstrating that she was a good parliamentarian. Other publicity extended to newspapers as far away as Sweden and South Africa. As compensation for her year's service, she was paid one dollar (equivalent to $28 in 2019). After only a year in office, she declined to seek reelection.
Following her term as mayor, Salter and her family continued to live in Argonia, until 1893 when her husband acquired land on the Cherokee Strip in Alva, Oklahoma (then Oklahoma Territory). Ten years later, they moved to Augusta in Woods County, Oklahoma Territory, where her husband practiced law and established the Headlight newspaper.
They eventually joined the town's settlers in moving to Carmen, Oklahoma. Following her husband's death in 1916, she moved to Norman, Oklahoma, accompanying her youngest child at the University of Oklahoma. She lived in Norman for the remainder of her life and maintained an interest in religious and political matters, but never again sought elected office.
In 1933, a commemorative bronze plaque was placed in Argonia's public square honoring her as the first woman mayor in the United States.
- Koerth-Baker, Maggie. "Why We Don't Know How Much Sexism Is Hurting Clinton's Campaign". fivethirtyeight.com. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
- Billington, Monroe (Autumn 1954). "Susanna Madora Salter – First Woman Mayor". kancoll.org. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
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