Six Trailblazing Women Mayors You Should Know About

BLFF Team | Nov 10, 2021


According to Center for American Women and Politics, there are 1,621 mayors of cities and towns with a population over 30,000 in the country—yet just 25%, 407, of them are women. While there is still much work to do to reach gender parity at this level, we know that women can make tangible positive impacts as mayors. As Barbara Lee Family Foundation President and Founder Barbara Lee has said, “This past year…women mayors across the country have led effective responses to multiple crises, including mass shootings, wildfires, and the Covid pandemic.”

As we reflect on a historic election here in Boston, prepare for more mayoral races across the country next year (including in Washington DC, where Muriel Bowser just announced she will run for a third term), we are reflecting on the trailblazing women mayors who paved the way. Check them out here:


Susanna M. Salter

First Woman Elected Mayor and Served in the Position*

Susanna M. Salter was elected Mayor of Argonia, Kansas on April 4, 1887 and served in the position for one year.

Salter originally did not intend to become the Mayor of Argonia or have a career in politics. Hoping to embarrass her and shame women from running for political positions, a group of men put Salter’s name on the ballot as a joke.

After finding out her name was on the ballot the day of the election, Salter pledged to take the position if elected. Because of her decision, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union dropped the original candidate they were backing and threw their support behind Salter; their votes, combined with the Republican Delegation, won Salter the election.

*The first women to be elected Mayor was Nancy Smith in a small town in Oklahoma but she chose not to serve.


Estelle Lawton Lindsey

First Woman Mayor of a Major City

Estelle Lawton Lindsey was the Mayor of Los Angeles for one day on September 11, 1915.

Lindsey was originally from Ohio and moved to Los Angeles with her husband for work. Prior to her career in politics, Lindsey worked in journalism and wrote for the Los Angeles Tribune and the Los Angeles Express.

While on the Los Angeles City Council, Lindsey was appointed Mayor for the day by then-Mayor Charles E. Sebastian and City Council President M.F. Betkouski while the two of them were away.


Lelia Foley

First African-American Woman Mayor

Lelia Foley was elected Mayor of Taft, Oklahoma on April 3, 1973. In 1974, Oklahoma named Foley “Outstanding Woman of the Year.” During her time as Mayor, Foley met with former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

After losing her Mayoral seat in the 1980s, Foley again went on to become Mayor of Taft again in 2000.


Eunice Sato

First Asian-American Woman Mayor

Eunice Sato served as Mayor of Long Beach, California from 1980 to 1982, making her the first Asian-American woman Mayor in the country, and first woman Mayor of Long Beach.

Prior to her career in politics, Sato was a teacher in Michigan and also taught overseas in Yokohama, Japan. Sato served on the Long Beach City Council from her election in 1975 to after her mayoral run through 1986.

After serving as Mayor, former President George H. W. Bush appointed Sato to the U.S. National Advisory Council on Educational Research in 1991.


Heather Fargo

First Latina Mayor

Heather Fargo was elected Mayor of Sacramento, California in 2000.

Before serving as mayor of the city, Fargo secured a seat on Sacramento’s City Council in 1989. Fargo represented District One on the City Council and was reelected twice in 1994 and 1998.

Fargo decided to run for Mayor in November of 1999 after the sudden death of then Mayor Joe Serna, Jr. She served as Mayor from 2000 to 2008, and focused on the environment, gun control, and women’s rights.


Annise Parker

First Openly Gay Woman Mayor of a Major City

Annise Parker served as Mayor of Houston, Texas from 2010 to 2016.

Prior to her career in politics, Parker worked as a software analyst in the oil and gas industry. Parker also co-owned a bookshop from the late 1980s to 1997.

Parker began her political career by serving as an at-large City Council member from 1998 to 2003. In 2009 Parker was elected Mayor of Houston and began her term in 2010. Parker was reelected twice in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

During her term, Parker passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, an anti-discrimination act.

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