Inspirational People: How Susanna M Salter Became America’s First Female Mayor Through A Prank

Left image shows a portrait of Susanna Salter. Right image a woman being sworn in to vote in Kansas.

Susanna M. Salter was born on March 2, 1860, lived to be 101 years old, and passed away on March 17, 1961. As the unwitting “victim” of a prank, she managed to cement her place within the history of Argonia, Kansas, in 1887. Susanna Salter became the first female mayor in the United States.

Kansas was one of the first states to grant women the right to vote if they lived in a first-, second-, or third-class city. Argonia, Kansas, was a third-class city, permitting women there the right to vote. However, the right wasn’t guaranteed until the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Back then, individual candidates didn’t need to place their names on the ballot. A group of men placed Susanna on the ballot with the hope of shaming and humiliating women. This is a great example of almost immediate Karmic backlash. Although surprised to find her name on the ballot, she agreed to serve if elected. And win she did, securing an astonishing two-thirds of the town’s vote! Becoming the first female mayor of Argonia, Kansas, Susanna Salter served a one-year term from 1887 to 1888.

Argonia, Kansas voters elected Susanna Salter as the first female mayor in 1887 while prohibition was the main issue in the state.
Image from YouTube.

Susanna was a Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) member, and women in the group voted en masse. Prohibition was the leading issue at the time. Local Republicans discovered the prank early in the day and also threw their support behind Susanna. While the men who schemed to place Susanna on the ballot thought they were making a wise move, they underestimated the opposition.

Susanna Salter Was Politically Savvy

Her father had been the first mayor of Argonia, and her father-in-law, Melville J. Salter, had been Kansas lieutenant governor. Far from the political novice, housewife, and mother they thought they had nominated, the pranksters got a seasoned and politically savvy opponent. When Susanna Salter agreed to serve her term if elected, voters secured her place in history. Karma.

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