America’s first woman mayor found herself on the ballot as a prank that backfired in the faces of the men responsible for it.
The Washington Post notes the anniversary (earlier this week, April 4), of 27-year-old Susanna Madora Salter. In 1887, women in Kansas had just gotten the vote in city elections. This was during the heated debates over whether alcohol should be allowed, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union hoped to capitalize on their admission to the franchise by putting forth a slate of prohibitionist candidates—all men, because we wouldn’t want to get crazy.
Well, the men who opposed prohibition thought they’d have a little fun with that.
Back then, candidates did not register before Election Day, nor were elections particularly organized. “Partisans distributed ballots they printed listing their preferred candidates for voters to drop into the ballot box,” historian Gil Troy wrote in the Daily Beast.
So these “wets” simply wrote their own ballot to distribute to townspeople.
“They drew up a slate of candidates identical with that of the W.C.T.U., except that for the office of mayor they substituted Mrs. Salter’s name,” Billington wrote.
“They reasoned that the notion of Susanna Madora Salter, a 27-year-old wife and mother, becoming mayor was so absurd that only the WCTU extremists would vote for her, exposing their movement as marginal and idiotic,” Troy wrote.
In fact, she won 60 percent of the vote. Basically, she was a reverse Trump.
She served her term—banning hard cider—before taking her leave from politics. An Indiana newspaper suggested that she “is said to discharge the duties of her office in the most acceptable manner.” Shit, maybe we should try a joke woman candidate for president next time.