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The First Female Mayor in the United States: Susanna Salter

Readmikenow has written about various medical conditions. He has previously written a series of articles on Polyarteritis nodosa.

Susanna Salter

Susanna Salter

The year was 1887. A group of men decided to play a prank on a local woman involved in politics. They thought it would be fun to place the name of Susanna Salter on the ballot. These men believed it would result in a huge election loss, one that would humiliate all women. This action was designed to discourage women from running for public office. Instead, Salter won the minds and hearts of the residents of Argonia, Kansas. She was elected mayor with over 60 percent of the vote.

Early Years

On March 2, 1860, Susanna Madora Kinsey was born in Lamira, an unincorporated community in Smith Township located in Ohio's Belmont County. Her mother's name was Terissa Ann White and her father's name was Oliver Kinsey. The family was descendants of Quaker colonists who came to the United States from England. When Susanna was 12, her family moved to Kansas and settled on a farm consisting of 80 acres. She attended Kansas State Agricultural College and skipped her freshman year because of the college-level courses she had taken during high school. Illness forced her to drop out of college six weeks before graduating.

Animated depiction of Susanna Salter on election day

Animated depiction of Susanna Salter on election day

Election Day

Kansas gave women the right to vote in only local elections in 1887. When the polls opened, Susanna did not know she was on the ballot. This is the year that The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was focused on one prime issue: enforcement of the Kansas prohibition laws. They nominated candidates for local office who agreed with them. Susanna was a member of The Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Once it was discovered that she was on the ballot, the union abandoned their mayoral candidate and voted for Susanna en masse. A delegation from the local Republican Party came to her home. The Republicans agreed to vote for her. They were determined that Susanna would be elected mayor by a two-thirds majority.

Stunning Victory

Susanna's mayoral election victory on April 4, 1887, received worldwide recognition. Newspapers around the globe ran stories about it. Some as far away as Sweden and South Africa wrote about her victory. Her election resulted in quite a bit of discussion about the possibility of female mayors being elected in other towns and even cities. There was discussion of the “petticoat rule,” which stated that women shouldn't get the vote because 90 percent don't want it.

Time in Office

Susanna was in office for only a year. She declined to seek reelection. As compensation for her service, she was paid one dollar. A correspondent from the newspaper The New York Sun attended one of the first city council meetings where Susanna presided as mayor. The article mentioned Susanna's hat and dress were appropriate for the meeting. It stated she handled the meeting with great decorum. Susanna was able to move discussions away from irrelevant topics and keep the focus on essential issues. She demonstrated the skills of an excellent parliamentarian.

Post-Mayoral Life

When her term as mayor was over, Susanna and her family remained living in Argonia, Kansas. In 1893, her husband obtained land in Alva, Oklahoma. They lived there for a decade and then relocated to Augusta, Woods County, Oklahoma. While there, her husband practiced law and started a newspaper called Headlight. The couple and their family then moved to Carmen, Oklahoma. Susanna's husband died in 1916. She then moved to Norman, Oklahoma. Susanna spent time there with her younger children as they attended the University of Oklahoma. She spent the rest of her life in Norman. Susanna remained interested in political and religious matters, though she never again ran for public office.

Susanna Salter and her husband Lewis Allison

Susanna Salter and her husband Lewis Allison


When Susanna was in college, she met an aspiring attorney named Lewis Allison Salter. The two married and moved to Argonia, Kansas. Susanna became active in prohibition party organizations such as the local Women's Christian Temperance Union. The couple had their first child in 1883. They named their daughter Francis Argonia Salter. The couple had a total of nine children.


Susanna Salter died on March 17, 1961. It was two weeks before her 101st birthday. She was buried next to her husband in Argonia, Kansas.

Salter family home in Argonia, Kansas

Salter family home in Argonia, Kansas


A commemorative bronze plaque was placed in the public square of Argonia, Kansas in 1933. It honors Susanna Salter as the first female mayor in the United States. In September 1972, the house where she and her family lived during her time as mayor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Plaque dedicated to Susanna Salter in Argonia, Kansas

Plaque dedicated to Susanna Salter in Argonia, Kansas



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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Readmikenow


Readmikenow (author) on April 03, 2021:

Ravi, thanks.

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on April 03, 2021:

Mike this is an interesting article and I had never heard about Suzanna Salter before.THanks for this education.

Readmikenow (author) on April 03, 2021:

MG, thanks. I agree, she does deserve a lot of credit, but she also had quite a bit of help.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on April 03, 2021:

Mike, your article shows that time changes and brings forth fresh events. First female Mayor is part of it. All credit to her.

Readmikenow (author) on April 01, 2021:

Pamela, thanks. She is an important part of history.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 01, 2021:

This is an informative article about an interesting woman. This was all new to me, so I appreciate the historical information, Mike.

Readmikenow (author) on April 01, 2021:

Peggy, thanks. I'm sure her success changed a lot of minds during that time.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 01, 2021:

I guess it backfired for those men who placed her name on the ballot. Thanks for the history lesson about Susanna Salter being the first female mayor in the U.S.

Readmikenow (author) on April 01, 2021:

Fran, thanks. I believe you are right.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on April 01, 2021:

Mike, what an interesting and important historical article. It could be said "don't mess with females and their vote. I truly enjoyed your article!

Readmikenow (author) on April 01, 2021:

Cheryl, thanks. She was an inspiration.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on April 01, 2021:

Great history lesson. Thank you.

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