Friday, March 02, 2007

'Petticoat Rule'

Susanna Madora Salter was born on this day in 1860 near Lamira, Ohio.

A 27-year old housewife, mother and officer in the local Women's Christian Temperance Union in Argonia, Kansas, in 1887 Mrs. Salter presided over a nominating caucus for support of local political candidates who would support the cause of the prohibition of alcohol. Although the Kansas legislature had just given women the right to right to vote in third-class city elections, a number of men objected to the WCTU's attempt to enter the exclusively male domain of politics. In an effort to discredit the WCTU, a group of unsympathetic men secretly drew up a different election slate with Susanna Salter's named penciled in for mayor of Argonia; they assumed that the WCTU would lose its credibility in the election and that the uppity women would leave political matters to the men thereafter. Instead, the local Republican Party backed Salter and she won by a 2/3 majority.

She received instant international notoriety, with articles appearing in newspapers around the world marveling at this new "petticoat rule" in America, but her term was uneventful. Nonetheless, she managed to win over those who opposed the participation of women in politics with her fair and efficient administration of the town. She retired from active political affairs after the end of her term in 1888.

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