Susanna “Dora” Salter became quite famous, both nationally and internationally, in 1887 when the townspeople of Argonia, Kansas elected her as the first woman mayor in the United States. She was also the first woman to be elected to any political office in the U.S. At the time, she was only 27 years old.
Leading up to the election, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (of which Salter was a member of) fought to keep prohibition a prime issue in the city’s elections. This angered some of the townsmen who believed women should stay out of political issues. As a joke, some decided to put Salter’s name into the running. They chose her because, not only was she an officer in the WCTU, she also lived within the town’s limits and was eligible for office.
Salter was shocked when she found out she was a candidate, but agreed to accept the office if elected. The Republican Party in Argonia agreed to back Salter in order to show “those fellows who framed up this deal a thing or two.” The WCTU also went against their own caucus nominee to support Salter. She won with a two-thirds majority. Instead of embarrassing Salter and the members of the WCTU, the men had inadvertently elected the first woman mayor. Even Salter’s husband, who initially was upset at the possibility of his wife holding a political office, joked about being the “husband of the mayor.”
Salter’s term was uneventful even though her election generated media interest from all around the country. After her term was up, she declined to seek reelection. She was paid one dollar as compensation for her service. Salter lived the remainder of her life in Norman, Oklahoma where she kept her interest in religious and political issues, but never again sought elected office. She died on March 17, 1961, two weeks after her 101st birthday.