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Episode 33: Kansas: An Accidental Election with Sharon McMahon

podcast Sep 27, 2021

In this solo episode, Sharon tells the story of Susanna Madora Salter, who accidentally became the first female mayor ever elected. What started as a ploy to throw off the mayoral election by a group of men in her small Kansas town quickly turned into a historical moment. At this time, candidates could create their own ballots and campaign for votes, so Susanna had no idea that she was even on the ballot during the election. In this episode, Sharon shares facts about voting during the latter half of the 1800s and how the first female mayor came to be, even though it was meant to be a joke. 

Link to Full Episode:

This Episode Will Teach You:

  • The first female mayor 
  • Voting rights for women 
  • Efforts to avoid the prohibition 
  • 1880’s voting and campaigning
  • Ballot history 

3 Biggest Takeaways:

  • Susanna Madora Salter was the first female mayor of the small town of Argonia, Kansas, but she did not set out on this campaign herself. In an effort to throw the election to avoid prohibition in this town, a group of men created a fake ballot with her name on it so that people would see it as a joke and they could sway the vote. 
  • In a plan to rig the election that backfired, Susanna received two-thirds of the votes and won the election. At this time, women could vote in local elections, but they were still unable to vote for president. Susanna and her husband were surprised by the events, but she took office and led her town with pride. 
  • During this time, women had to conform to social norms, so when Susanna served as mayor while pregnant, it was groundbreaking. During her time in office, she received the expected negative feedback, but also received praise from the people of Argonia and from those around the country. While in office, she received a letter from a women’s suffrage leader saying that her “being the mayor is a realization of my childhood dream that somebody opened the double doors of equality.”

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