Susanna M. Salter

Last updated
Susanna M. Salter
Susanna Madora Salter.jpg
Salter in 1887
Mayor of Argonia, Kansas
In office
April 4, 1887 April 8, 1888
Preceded byWilliam H. Watson
Succeeded byJ. S. Baughman
Personal details
Susanna Madora Kinsey

March 2, 1860
Lamira, Ohio
DiedMarch 17, 1961(1961-03-17) (aged 101)
Norman, Oklahoma
Resting placeArgonia Cemetery
Political party Prohibition
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 an American politician and activist. She served as mayor of Argonia, Kansas, becoming the first woman elected to serve as mayor in the United States (Nancy Smith was the first woman elected mayor in the United States, in Oskaloosa, Iowa, but chose not to serve) and one of the first women to serve in any political office in the U.S. [1]


Early life and education

Susanna Madora Kinsey was born March 2, 1860, near the unincorporated community of Lamira in Smith Township, Belmont County, Ohio. [2] [3] She was the daughter of Oliver Kinsey and Terissa Ann White Kinsey, the descendants of Quaker colonists from England. [2]

At the age of 12, she moved to Kansas with her parents, settling on an 80-acre (32-hectare) farm near Silver Lake. In 1878, she entered Kansas State Agricultural College (present-day Kansas State University) in Manhattan. [3] 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. [2] [3]

While a student, she met Lewis Allison Salter (1858–1916), an aspiring attorney and the son of former Kansas Lieutenant Governor Melville J. Salter. [3] 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. [2]

In 1883, she gave birth to the first white 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. [2] [3]


Susanna Salter family home in Argonia, Kansas Susan-dora-salter-house.jpg
Susanna Salter family home in Argonia, Kansas

Salter was elected mayor of Argonia on April 4, 1887. [3] Her election was a surprise because her name had been placed on a slate of candidates as a stunt by a group of men hoping to secure a loss that would humiliate women and discourage them from participation in politics. [4] [2] [3] [5] Because candidates did not have to be made public before election day, [2] Salter herself did not know she was on the ballot before the polls opened. [5] 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 [6] and confirmed that she would serve and the Republicans agreed to vote for her, helping to secure her election by a two-thirds majority. [2] [5]

Although her term was uneventful, [2] her election generated national interest from the press, [3] 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. [2]

One of the first city council meetings over which the newly elected Mayor 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. [2] As compensation for her year's service, she was paid one dollar (equivalent to $29in 2020). After a year in office, she declined to seek reelection. [2]

Personal life

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). [3] Ten years later, they moved to Augusta in Woods County, Oklahoma Territory, where her husband practiced law and established the Headlight newspaper. [2]

They eventually joined the town's settlers in moving to Carmen, Oklahoma. Following her husband's death in 1916, she moved to Norman, Oklahoma, [3] accompanying her younger children during their studies at the University of Oklahoma. [2] 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.[ citation needed ]


Salter died on March 17, 1961, in Norman, Oklahoma, two weeks after her 101st birthday, and was buried in Argonia, alongside her husband. [3]


In 1933, a commemorative bronze plaque was placed in Argonia's public square honoring Salter's service as the first woman mayor in the United States. [2]

The house she lived in during her tenure as mayor was added to the National Register of Historic Places in September 1971. [7]

She is subject of the children's book A Vote for Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (2021). [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Argonia, Kansas City in Sumner County, Kansas

Argonia is a city in Sumner County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 501.

Prohibition Party Political party in the United States

The Prohibition Party (PRO) is a political party in the United States known for its historic opposition to the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages and as an integral part of the temperance movement. It is the oldest existing third party in the United States and the third longest active party.

Nancy Kassebaum American politician

Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker is an American politician who represented the State of Kansas in the United States Senate from 1978 to 1997. She is the daughter of Alf Landon, who was Governor of Kansas from 1933 to 1937 and the 1936 Republican nominee for president, and the widow of former Senator and diplomat Howard Baker. She was the first woman ever elected to a full term in the Senate without her husband having previously served in Congress. She is also the first woman to have represented Kansas in the Senate.

Isabell Masters PhD of Topeka, Kansas, was a five-time perennial third-party candidate for President of the United States.

Women in the United States Senate History of female representation in the US Senate

This article covers the history of women in the United States Senate and various milestones achieved by female senators. It includes a list of all women who have served in the Senate, a list of current female senators, and a list of states represented by women in the Senate. The first female U.S. senator, Rebecca Latimer Felton, represented Georgia for a single day in 1922, and the first woman elected to the Senate, Hattie Caraway, was elected from Arkansas in 1932. Fifty-eight women have served in the upper house of the United States Congress since its establishment in 1789. As of January 20, 2021, there are 24 women serving.

Elizabeth Yates (mayor)

Elizabeth Yates was the mayor of Onehunga borough in New Zealand for most of 1894. She was the first female mayor anywhere in the British Empire. Outside of the British Empire, she was preceded by Susanna M. Salter who was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas in 1887. Onehunga is now part of the city of Auckland.

Karen Shepherd

Karen Shepherd served in the United States House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995.

Pearl Peden Oldfield American politician (1876–1962)

Pearl Peden Oldfield was a U.S. Democratic politician and the United States Representative from Arkansas's 2nd congressional district from 1929 to 1931. She was the first woman elected to Congress from Arkansas. In 1929, she replaced her husband, a Congressman who died in office; Oldfield finished the last thee months of his term and served one more before declining to run for re-election.

Women have served in the United States House of Representatives since the 1917 entrance of Jeannette Rankin from Montana, a Republican. In total, 347 women have been U.S. representatives and seven more women have been non-voting delegates. As of June 14, 2021, there were 119 women in the U.S. House of Representatives, making women 27.4% of the total. Of the 354 women who have served in the House, 232 have been Democrats and 122 have been Republicans. One woman has been Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California.

Melville Judson Salter was a politician and civic leader who was twice elected the eighth Lieutenant Governor of Kansas serving under Governor Thomas A. Osborn.

Patsy Kinsey is a former American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as the Mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina for five months in 2013. She served out the remainder of the term of former Mayor Anthony Foxx, who resigned to become United States Secretary of Transportation. Kinsey is the second woman to serve as Mayor of Charlotte. The city's first female mayor was Republican Sue Myrick, who held the office from 1987 to 1991.

Susan Ellen Wissler, born Susan Ellen Frisbie, was the first female mayor in Wyoming and one of the first in the United States. Wissler was born in Broadhead, Minnesota; she moved to Denver at age nine, where she ultimately married and had two children. In 1890, Wissler and her family moved to Dayton, Wyoming. Wissler's husband died of tuberculosis in 1896, leaving Wissler to support her family alone; she became a local schoolteacher and later opened a millinery store.

Lamira is an unincorporated community in Belmont County, in the U.S. state of Ohio.

Mildred June Tompkins Benson, commonly known as June Benson, (1915–1981) was the first woman to serve as mayor in the American State of Oklahoma when elected mayor of Norman in 1957 by city commissioners. Benson was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1985, thanks also to the significant contributions she made on voting rights and environmental protection.

Mary D. Lowman

Mary D. (McGaha) Lowman was a schoolteacher and the mayor of Oskaloosa, Kansas, in the late 1880s. She was the first woman in Kansas to be elected mayor with a city council composed entirely of women.

Salter House United States historic place

The Salter House in Argonia, Kansas is a historic house at 220 W. Garfield St. which was built in 1884–85. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

Amelia Elizabeth Simison McColgin was an American businesswoman and politician. A native of Kansas, she moved to western Oklahoma Territory in 1901. In 1920, she was the first woman elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.


  1. Koerth-Baker, Maggie. "Why We Don't Know How Much Sexism Is Hurting Clinton's Campaign". Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Billington, Monroe (Autumn 1954). "Susanna Madora Salter – First Woman Mayor". Archived from the original on 2002-11-02. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Susanna Madora Salter". Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity website; retrieved July 5, 2016.
  4. Burrell, Barbara (2017). Women and Politics: A Quest for Political Equality in an Age of Economic Inequality. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. p. 214. ISBN   9781317516279 . Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  5. 1 2 3 Weatherford, Doris. Women in American Politics: History and Milestones. SAGE Publications, 2012, p. 240.
  6. "Susanna Madora Salter profile". 22 May 2013. Retrieved 2017-04-10.
  7. "Salter House". National Register of Historic Places; retrieved January 25, 2017.
  8. "A Vote for Susanna: The First Woman Mayor", Albert Whitman & Co.