25. The Seeds of a Sexist Joke
Susanna Salter had long been a low-key pioneer. When she was twenty years old, she attended the predecessor of today’s Kansas State University. Unfortunately, because of ill health, she was forced to drop out just a few weeks before graduation. While she pursued her higher education, Salter met her future husband. After they got married in 1880, the couple moved to Argonia and started a family. Susanna became active in her local Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) – an anti-alcohol organization that advocated prohibition. Temperance organizations generated many enemies, especially among those who profited from alcohol. When women got the right to vote in Kansas municipal elections in 1887, the WCTU made enforcement of the state’s Prohibition law its main issue and backed a slate of like-minded (male) candidates.
The WCTU’s efforts to get women to exercise their newly-won right to vote displeased some men. A group of about twenty guys from Argonia were particularly upset by both women’s involvement in politics, and by the WCTU’s pro prohibition stance. So they decided to kill two birds with one stone: get a good laugh, and discourage women from political participation. There was no legal requirement to secure candidates’ consent before their names were placed on the ballots. So just before Argonia’s 1887 municipal elections, they prepared a slate of candidates comprised of WCTU members, and Susana Salter’s name headed the list as candidate for mayor.