This past Tuesday, the Kansas State English department hosted “Kansas Women Have Done It” at the Frederick Douglass Community Center to honor the 19th Amendment and the birthday of Susanna Madora Salter, the first female mayor in America.
Throughout the evening, there were several presenters including Krista Everhart, senior in secondary education, who gave presentations on women’s suffrage and individuals who fought to give women the right to vote.
At the event, attendees learned the history of women’s suffrage. In 1848, the first convention for women’s rights was held in Seneca Falls, New York — six years before Kansas became a territory. In 1861, women in the state of Kansas were able to vote in school district elections but an attempt to create general women’s suffrage was defeated in 1867.
Success eventually came in the midst of the struggle for equality in the state when Salter was elected mayor on April 4, 1887. She was initially put on the ballot as a joke and didn’t learn of this until the morning of the election. However, she was still able to obtain two-thirds of the vote and was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas.
“I think she’s an incredible figure who shows the power of the underdog,” Everhart said. “Someone that was put on the ballot as a joke and completely came out on top. Then being able to work within the system to break down some of the oppressive barriers within — that has been really incredible.”
On Nov. 5, 1912, Kansas voters approved the Equal Suffrage Amendment to the state Constitution, making Kansas the eighth state to grant full suffrage to women. Eight years later, the years of hard work and dreams of so many individuals were realized as the 19th Amendment was ratified to the U.S. Constitution.
Kansas was one of the first states to ratify the amendment on June 16, a mere two weeks after it was proposed by Congress.
Frances Harper, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Langston Hughes and Sojourner Truth were also mentioned during the presentations.
Kristin Chaney, sophomore in social work, gave a presentation and read several of Harper’s works. Literacy was a large part of Chaney’s presentation as both of her grandmothers were illiterate. Chaney said she takes her young daughter to the polls each year to educate her on the value of voting.
“It’s a big deal to know three generations down on both sides that I can teach my daughter,” Chaney said. “Not only can she be aware of the battles ahead of her and the laws and significance of things around her, but she can vote on them. Being able to do that is extremely important.”