Curious Progress: How The First Female Mayor in the United States Got Elected

In celebration of the 134th Anniversary of her election

Susanna M. Salter in 1887

Introduction

Susanna Madora Salter was born on March 2, 1860, near the unincorporated community of Lamira in Smith Township, Belmont County, Ohio. Her parents were Oliver Kinsey and Terissa Ann White Kinsey, both were descendants of Quaker colonists from England.

Timeline

Unexpectedly Elected

As the title of this part implies, Salter wasn’t an official candidate for the election. She was put on a slate of candidates as a prank by a group of men against women in politics. At this time, the candidates didn’t have to be made public before election day, therefore Salter herself didn’t even know that she was on the ballot before the polls opened.

On election day, however, she agreed to accept office if elected. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union abandoned their own preferred candidate and voted for Salter en masse.
Furthermore, the local Republican Party1 Chairman sent a delegation to her home and confirmed that she would serve which consequently led to Republicans agreeing to vote for her.
All factors combined resulted in securing the election for her with a 2/3rd majority.

Her term was uneventful, but her election generated national interest from the press and sparked a debate regarding the feasibility of other towns following Argonia’s lead. It ranged from „petticoat rule“ to a „wait-and-see“ attitude.

A correspondent of the New York Sun attended one of the first council meetings. He wrote about the mayor’s dress and hat; he also pointed out that she presided with great decorum2. She also showed that she was a good parliamentarian by checking several times irrelevant discussions.
It wasn’t just news in the US – it extended to newspapers as far as Sweden and South Africa.

For her one year in service, Salter was paid one dollar in compensation (28$ in 2019).
She didn’t seek re-election.

1 The Republican Party was for the longest time a socially progressive party. This changed in the mid-20th when the GOP shifted more towards the right and Democrats shifted left-wing.
2 Decorum describes the antique principle of a decent and appropriate public rhetoric, poesy and behaviour.

Susanna Madora Salter’s House Nowadays

Argonia, Kansas

Closing

Salter’s unexpected election is a historic event that I came across by pure coincidence. In that case, it was a meme ridiculing the group of men who tried to humiliate the movement for women in politics – the website is known as the „Frontpage of the Internet“.

You can also read about her here (National Women’s History Museum).

In the future, I may find more historic events that are not that well-known.

This blog was published on the 134th anniversary of her election as mayor (4th April).

Veröffentlicht von thomasbaroque

Ich schreibe über politische, wirtschaftliche und wissenschaftliche Themen. Meine eigenen politischen Ziele ebenso. / I write about politics, the economy and science (my English isn't that good, though). My own political goals and ideas as well.

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