Of Beattie, Kansas in 1899


Headline from the San Francisco Call (Volume 85, Number 172) on May 21st, 1899.

On April 4th, 1899, the little Kansas town of Beattie held their election, and the entire election went to women. The most prominent women of the town had decided to run for municipal election that year, women won every municipal office in that small town. According to the Northwestern Christian Advocate, Volume 47:

The women drove carriages through a blinding snowstorm carrying voters to the polls.


Also from the San Francisco Call.

According to the New York Times article, “WOMEN RULE IN KANSAS” (April 12th, 1899):





Additionally, the San Francisco Call had to say (“Kansas Town Run Entirely by Women” on May 21st 1899):









According to this, several women had held elective municipal offices during this period of time in the state of Kansas:


A bill was introduced to grant women municipal voting rights.


“Municipal suffrage” was won, allowing women to run for office in all city elections.

April 4, 1887

Susannah Medora Salter was elected mayor in Argonia (Sumner County), becoming the first woman mayor in the nation.


Oskaloosa, Cottonwood Falls, Rossville, Elk Falls, and Baldwin had women mayors in that order.


Canton, Edgerton, Kiowa, Haddam, Pleasanton, Gaylord, Ellis, Jamestown, and Beattie had women mayors in that order.

According to book, Pioneer Women, by Joanna Stratton, the names of these mayors were (located on page 265). Brief excepts from the Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 12 naming all women municipal officers is below each name:

Oskaloosa: Mary D. Lowman

Cottonwood Falls: Wilhelmina D. Morgan

Roseeville: Mrs. H. H. Miller

Elks Falls: Mrs. A. L. King

Baldwin: Lucy M. Sullivan

Canton: Belle Gray

Edgerton: Mrs. W. H. Kelly

Kiowa: Dr. Rachel S. Packson

Haddam: Elizabeth Vedder

Pleasanton: Annie Austin

Gaylord: Antoniette L. Haskell

Ellis: Mrs. M. A. Wade

Jamestown: Anna M. Strain

So what happened to these women of Beattie, Kansas? They all got voted out the next election. According to Public Opinion: A Comprehensive Summary of the Press Throughout the World on All Important Current Topics, Volume 28 (page 491):

THE MEN’S TICKET won in the recent election of city officers in the town of Beattie, Kansas. A ticket of was elected a year ago composed entirely of women, with Mrs. Elizabeth Totten for mayor. The strict prohibition enforced by the women is said to have caused the overturn.

During this time period, there was not a universal law on prohibition in Kansas, as it could only be enforced by public sentiment. According to Harper’s Weekly, Volume 44 (page 607):

The recent decision of a United States district judge that agents from other states may take orders in Kansas for liquor gives a Topeka correspondent of the New York Evening Post a text for some discourse about the status of the rum traffic in Kansas. He says that though for twenty years past the Constitution of Kansas has prohibited the sale of liquor in the State, State prohibition practically amounts to local option, with the presumption of law on the side of the temperance people. In the largest towns, except Topeka, the prohibition law has never been strictly enforced. In smaller towns the law is enforced where the people favor it, but cannot be enforced where public opinion does not back it up. The story is told of the experience of the small town of Beattie, where a woman, Mrs. Totten, was elected mayor last year on the “dry” ticket. There was only one saloon in town, and she closed it, though bad liquor was still purchasable at a drug-store at two dollars a pint. But the town did not like the degree of dryness her rule induced. The Swedish farmers who had been used to come to Beattie to trade were won’t to drink some beer and play billiards before they went home, and these indulgences being denied them, their trade began to seek other commercial centres. So the next election Beattie chose a man Mayor whose platform was one of two saloons to pay $300 a year license, and a billiard hall: all to be closed on Sundays. So Beattie under a prohibition law got practically high license, which was not a bad result. That is said to be a common condition in Kansas towns where public sentiment does not enforce prohibition. A few saloons are allowed, and their owners pay a monthly fine in police courts, which amounts to a fixed license. That Kansas, under prohibition, is more abstemious than New York under the Raines law is not demonstrated. Local option is a good thing. It keeps saloons out of the communities where a majority of the people don’t want them. If Kansas prohibition amounts to local option it’s practice is better than it’s theories would lead us to expect.

So just what exactly is the Raines Law, mentioned above? According to the Encyclopedia of Prostitution and Sex Work, Volume 1 (page 332):

The increasing brazenness of the New York sex trade coincided with renewed attempts on the part of abolitionists to stamp it out. Reform groups with varying agendas had long been a feature of New York life. The latter part of the 19th century saw some of these groups organized preventative societies, granted official authority to enforce laws that the mayor and the police were often too indifferent or too corrupt to apply. Among the most famous were Anthony Comstock’s Society for the Suppression of Vice and the Society for the Suppression of Crime, headed by the Reverend Charles Parkhurst. The SPC targeted brothels, gambling dens, and other establishments, using tactics that ranged from simple undercover police to entrapment and even armed raids. A successor to the SPC, the Committee of Fourteen, was funded by wealthy New Yorkers who included Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller Jr.

The abolitionists were probably correct in that the authorities were unlikely to take action against prostitution. The police were less interested in enforcing the law than in using it as a tool for shaking down prostitutes and madams. Corruption was routine, and most brothels paid protection fees to the police. Antiprostitution campaigns by civil authorities merely raised the amount that brothel owners were expected to pay. Madams also paid bribes to local politicians, including members of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that dominated New York through much of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century.

Under pressure from reformers and preventative societies, legislators began to introduce laws aimed at curbing vice. The Raines Law (1896), introduced by State Senator John Raines, restricted the sale of alcohol to hotels with 10 or more beds. The intention was to eliminate a key milieu for prostitution by dismantling the saloon trade. Perhaps predictably, the effect was the opposite of what was intended. Any separation that had previously existed between the hotel trade and the sex trade practically disappeared as saloons converted to hotel en masse, while larger hotels increasingly sponsored or tolerated prostitution as a way of increasing revenue. Raines Law hotels quickly became one of the primary locations for commercial sex in New York.

Other legislative efforts proved more successful. Although Senator Clarence Lexow’s investigation of political and police corruption in 1894 did little to immediately reduce ties between politicians, policemen, and prostitutes, it did set the pattern for a series of similar investigations that followed at approximately 20-year intervals and may have helped to gradually eliminate the worst corruption in the police and party machines. The Prentice Law (1906) reduced the number of the Raines Law hotels, and abolitionist organizations such as the Committee of Fourteen presided over the reorganization of courts and the passage of additional laws targeting prostitution and the sale of alcohol.

As depicted in the Chicago Daily Tribune, titled “RAINES LAW A TRAVESTY: Sunday in New York marked by wild debauchery,” (April 20th, 1896) the Raines Law really did not work well at all:

Liquor Sold Openly In Saloons, Which are Hastily Equipped as Hotels to Evade the Requirements of the New License Measure – Everybody Who Bought a Five-Cent Sandwich Could Get a Drink – Riot and Drunkenness Without Limit in New York.

There was more liquor sold in New York today than on any previous Sunday in many years. There was more drunkenness seen upon the streets, more depravity, and of vice wide open than this city knew almost in the worst days of protected viciousness.

Three hundred saloons, which had been transferred into so-called during the last week, were wide open all day and night. The proprietors gloated in the evasion of the law and greeted every one with a joyous expression. The least liberal saloonkeepers ordered drinks “on the house” with reckless generosity. Men entered and drank not once, but a dozen times, because the day was Sunday and they had been obliged to buy a 5-cent sandwich. Scenes of drunkenness almost universal on the East Side could have been witnessed in isolated spots all over the city where the subterfuge protection of a hotel license permitted beer to flow freely over the little saving sandwich that is called a meal.

The kitchens of the hotel saloons had no stoves, no chefs, no larders. Thin board partitions had been set up to make cubby holes called rooms and bed were thrown in, but no one slept in them last night. This is a fair sample of all New York’s hotel licensed saloons.

In Brooklyn there was also the usual amount of drunkenness. Hotel saloons are not numerous in that city and saloon screens were drawn away from the windows, showing empty interiors. But the thirsty knew where and how to obtain their beer.

The Legends of Kansas article, “Prohibition and Alcohol in Kansas” goes into great depth on this topic:

The temperance question was an engrossing topic in Kansas from its earliest territorial and statehood days. The Kansas Territorial Legislature of 1855 enacted a law entitled “An act to restrain dramshops and taverns, and to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors.” It provided that a special election should be held on the first Monday of October, 1855, and every two years thereafter, in each municipal township in each county, and in each incorporated city or town in the territory, to take a vote of the citizens upon the question whether dramshops and tavern licenses should be issued for the two years following the election.

The vote was to be by ballot, either “In favor of dramshops” or “Against dramshops.” Before a license should be given to tavern keepers, grocers, or other liquor sellers, a majority vote had to be cast by each municipality in favor of the measure and a majority of householders were required to petition for the vote to be held.

“Penalties for selling any spirits, wines, or other intoxicating liquors contrary to law, included a fine of $100 for the first offense and for every second or subsequent offense not less than $100, and imprisonment in county jail not less than 5 and not more than 30 days. Selling to a slave without the sanction of his master, owner or overseer, or selling liquor on Sunday, also subjected the offender to these same penalties as well as a forfeiture of their license. Licensees were also required to give a bond of $2,000 and not to keep a disorderly house.

Further action on the liquor question was taken by the legislature of 1859, which included an act “to restrain dramshops and taverns and regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors.” It provided that no license should be granted by a county business or city, unless the petition requesting the dramshop, tavern, or grocery license was signed by a majority of the householders in the township, county or ward where the license was sought. However, all incorporated cities containing 1,000 or more inhabitants were exempted from this act, such cities possessing full powers to regulate licenses for all purposes and dispose of the proceeds thereof. This law fixed the tax upon the dramshop keeper at not less than $50 nor more than $500 for a period of twelve months. The fine for selling liquor without license was not to exceed $100 for the first offense. For the second and subsequent offenses, the fine should not be greater than $100, but the offender might be indicted for a misdemeanor and fined not less than $500, and imprisoned in the county jail not less than six months, it was made a misdemeanor to sell liquor on Sunday, the Fourth of July, to any one known to be in the habit of getting intoxicated, or to any married man against the known wishes of his wife. All places where liquor would be sold in violation of this act were declared nuisances. In addition, damages could be recovered by every wife, child, parent, guardian, employer or other person who should be injured in person, property or means of support by any intoxicated person or in consequence of intoxication, and a married woman could sue as a single person.

In the constitutional convention of 1859 there was some discussion about incorporating in the constitution a prohibitory measure with regard to liquor, and John Ritchie, of Topeka, suggested the following resolution: “Resolved, that the constitution of the state of Kansas shall confer power on the legislature to prohibit the introduction, manufacture or sale of spirituous liquors within the state.” On July 23rd, 12 days later, H. D. Preston, from Burlingame, offered this section: “The legislature shall have power to regulate or prohibit the sale of alcoholic liquors, except for mechanical and medicinal purposes.” In the end; however, no prohibitory measure was included in the constitution at that time.

The temperance sentiment continued to increase and was very strong in the by 1867. Lecturers from the East gave addresses on the subject, enlarging and stimulating the temperance feeling throughout the state. In 1869 all the territorial and state laws of Kansas were revised and the so-called Dramshop Act went into effect on October 31, 1869, providing in part:

“Before a dramshop, tavern or grocery license shall be granted to any person applying for the same, such person, if applying for a township license, shall present to the tribunal transacting county business, a petition or recommendation signed by a majority of the residents of the township, of 21 years of age or over, both male and female, in which such dramshop, tavern or grocery is to be kept; or if the same is to be kept in any incorporated city or town, then to the city council thereof a petition signed by the majority of the citizens of the ward of 21 years of age, both male and female, in which said dramshop, tavern or grocery is to be kept, recommending such person as a fit person to keep the same, and requesting that a license be granted to him for such purpose; provided that the corporate authorities of cities of the first and second class may by ordinance dispense with petition mentioned in this section.”

The act further provided as a penalty for selling liquor on Sunday or on the Fourth of July, a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $100 and imprisonment from 10 to 30 days. It was also made illegal for a person to become intoxicated or to sell alcohol habitual drunkards or to minors.

From 1861 to 1879 was a period fraught with an ever increasing tendency toward Prohibition. A few temperance workers labored most industriously to change public opinion in regard to open traffic in liquor. This creation of a new public opinion was in a great measure due to the crusade made against liquor by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Prohibition meetings were held in all the principal cities of the state years before the amendment to the constitution was adopted. Drusella Wilson, the first president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, traveled 3,000 miles in a private conveyance, making speeches, holding mass meetings and “soliciting signatures to a petition to be presented to the legislature.”

She set the women working all over the state, organizing unions so they could be more efficient. She organized over 100 unions that year and carried in the first petition to the legislature, the largest one ever presented up to that time.

The women not only worked faithfully, but when election day came they also turned out all over the state and worked all day, urging up indifferent and negligent voters, and supplying refreshments. They held prayer meetings in the churches all day, and sang the church songs every hour to remind the voters that the women were praying for the protection of the homes and the boys.

In his message to the legislature on January 14, 1879, Governor John P. St. John included a section on temperance. He said in part: “The subject of temperance, in its relation to the use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage has occupied the attention of the people of Kansas to such an extent I feel it my duty to call your attention to some of its evils, and suggest, if possible, a remedy therefore. Much has been said of late years about hard times and extravagant and useless expenditures of money, and in this connection I desire to call your attention to the fact that here in Kansas, where our people are at least as sober and temperate as are found in any of the states in the West, the money spent annually for intoxicating liquors would defray the entire expenses of the state government, including the care and maintenance of all the charitable institutions, agricultural college, normal school, state university and penitentiary. . . . Could we but dry up this one great evil that consumes annually so much wealth, and destroys the physical, moral and mental usefulness of its victims, we would hardly need prisons, poorhouses, or police. ”

Governor St. John was an ardent and powerful champion of the temperance cause and through his influence, and that of other active and sympathetic temperance workers, the legislature of 1879 passed and submitted to the people of Kansas a joint resolution providing an amendment to the constitution, as follows: “The manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors shall be forever prohibited in this state, except for medical, scientific and mechanical purposes.” The amendment came before the people at the polls on November 2, 1880, and out of a total vote of 176,606 it was carried by a majority of 7,998. At the next Republican state convention Mr. St. John was re-nominated for governor upon “a platform pledging the party to the policy of Prohibition of the liquor traffic,” and made a fight on that issue before the people.

In his message to the legislature of 1881 he stated that “This amendment being now a part of the constitution of our state, it devolves upon you to enact such laws as are necessary for its rigid enforcement. There are but a few citizens today who will not admit that dramshops are a curse to any people. More crime, poverty, misery and degradation flow from them than from all other sources combined. The real difference of opinion existing in relation to them is not so much as to whether they are an evil or a blessing, but rather as to what course should be pursued toward them.

Some have contended that they should be licensed; but it seems to me that if they are an evil, no government should give them the sanction of the law. They should be prohibited as we prohibit all other acknowledged evils. It has been urged as an argument in favor of licensing dramshops, that, under that system, a large revenue is derived. Granting this to be true, I insist we have no right to consider the question of revenue at a cost of the sacrifice of principles. All the revenue ever received from such a source will not compensate for a single tear of a heartbroken mother at the sight of her drunken son as he reels from the door of a licensed dramshop. . . . The people of Kansas have spoken upon the whole question in a language that cannot be misunderstood. By their verdict, the license system as it relates to the sale of intoxicating liquors as a beverage, has been blotted from the statute books of the state. We now look to the future, not forgetting that it was here on our soil where the first blow was given that finally resulted in the emancipation of a race from slavery. We have now determined upon a second emancipation, which shall free not only the body but the soul of man. Now, as in the past, the civilized world watches Kansas, and anxiously awaits the result. No step should be taken backward. Let it not be said that any evil exists in our midst, the power of which is greater than the people.”

The legislature, representing the temperance element of the state, on Febrary 19, 1881, passed a long act of 24 sections, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors except for medical, scientific and mechanical purposes, and regulating the manufacture and sale thereof for such excepted purposes.

It also made it unlawful to give away liquor, and for a person to become intoxicated, the fine was $5 or imprisonment in county jail from one to ten days. The passage of this strict Prohibition law started the propagation of the temperance idea, although its effect upon the liquor traffic was not immediately recognized. In different parts of the state, vigorous prosecutions were instituted. The Prohibition policy had many enemies who believed the constitutional amendment a mistake. Among these was Governor George W. Glick, who succeeded Governor St. John in 1883. In his message to the legislature he dealt with the subject of Prohibition and the operation of the law. Glick tried hard to modify the law, but it fell on deaf ears and was not changed. The state legislatures of later years amended and supplemented the original enactment.

In the early 1890s the Agora Magazine conducted a symposium on the condition of Prohibition in Kansas, which had at that time been in effect over ten years. The consensus of opinion was that the public sentiment was constantly increasing in its contempt for liquor traffic. Many men who voted against Prohibition in 1880, after viewing the results of the law only partially enforced, were heartily convinced in 1890 that Kansas was far better off without open saloons. The churches, the State Temperance Union, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union continued to promote the movement.

A movement toward enforcement of state laws became a policy of many politicians seeking office, not only in Kansas, but elsewhere, as well as a tendency toward cleanliness in political and municipal affairs.

The real enforcement of the Prohibition law began in about 1907. Prior to that time the officials were somewhat lax in their duties and many drugstores were practically dramshops.

The county attorneys and attorney-general planned to make Kansas thoroughly “dry” and systematically closed up the places selling liquor. In 1909 the laws were revised and strengthened, a most important change being made in the withdrawal of the druggist’s permits to sell liquor for medical, scientific and mechanical purposes.

The power of public opinion regarding Prohibition soon spread throughout the nation, bringing with it Prohibition in other states and to the entire nation in 1919. Called the “Noble Experiement,” the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption were banned across the country. Though its many supporters were sure that Prohibition would lead to a better United States, they were not prepared for the many criminals it would create. Bootlegging and the illegal distribution of liquor became rampant and the government was unprepared to enforce the laws. In fact, by 1925 in New York City alone there were anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 speakeasies.

During the Great Depression, Prohibition became increasingly unpopular especially in large cities and on March 23, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law an amendment, allowing the manufacture and sale of certain kinds of alcoholic beverages. On December 5, 1933 National Prohibition was overturned. Each state then had the opportunity to present the issue to its citizens and on November 6, 1934, Kansas’ voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to regulate and tax liquor. Therefore, though consumption of alcohol was still illegal in Kansas, alcoholic beverages were produced, transported into and used throughout the state with little enforcement of the law.

In 1937, the Kansas Legislature enacted a law that allowed beer (cereal malt beverages) with an alcoholic content of 3.2% or less to be sold in the state for both on and off-premise consumption and set the drinking age at 18. Prohibition of liquor in Kansas continued into the 1940s, but again, there was little enforcement of the law.

However, in 1946, Ed Arn became the state’s Attorney General and his agenda was that the hypocrisy must end and the laws on the books should be enforced.

Several distinguished Kansans subsequently undertook an effort to end state Prohibition which led to a proposal to end Prohibition being placed on the General Election ballot in November, 1948 that passed.

This amendment of the authorized the legislature to “regulate, license and tax the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor, and regulate the possession and transportation of intoxicating liquor”. The amendment also “forever prohibited” the open saloon which meant that packaged liquor could be authorized and regulated, but that the sale of liquor by the drink in public places was prohibited.

The following year the Legislature enacted the Liquor Control Act created a system of regulating, licensing and taxing those package sales as well as creating the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to enforce the act. The drinking age for alcoholic liquor was set at 21, while the drinking age for cereal malt beverage remained at 18.

In 1965 Kansas approved the Private Club Act which allowed for liquor by the drink in private clubs only. The new law required members to not only pay a $10 fee but to also wait 10 days from the time they applied before they could be served. It also required that people purchase a separate membership for each club that they wanted to drink in. The situation was particularly difficult for travelers from other states who were often perplexed and often disappointed at Kansas’ liquor laws.

The votors were given the opportunity in 1970 to pass a constitutional amendment to legalize liquor-by-the-drink, however, the proposition lost – 50.8% to 49.2%. The on-premise problem persisted.

In 1978, the Legislature authorized private clubs that were restaurants (defined as establishments deriving more than 50% of their gross receipts from the sale of food) to sell liquor-by-the-drink. However, the law, which was to go into effect in those counties where the voters approved such sales during the 1978 election, was struck down by the courts.

More provisions were passed in 1985 Legislature that would prove to have a profound impact on the sale of alcoholic beverages in Kansas. These included raising the drinking age for 3.2 beer from 18 to 21, to prohibit “happy hours,” and once again allow Kansas voters to decide whether to allow the sale of liquor-by-the-drink.

After decades of battling, liquor-by-the-drink was finally passed by the voters in the 1986 election by a 59.9% to 40.1% margin. Bars and restaurants in the 36 counties approving the measure could legally sell liquor to members of the public for the first time since 1880.

By 1998, eleven counties had voted in liquor by the drink with no food requirements while numerous others relaxed the food requirements. Since then, numerous other counties have followed suit and in some counties, the “no sale of alcohol on Sundays” has also been eliminated, allowing liquor sales. Though more than a dozen counties continue to ban liquor-by-the drink, the state has progressed dramatically in recent years. Still, there are a few rules that can be baffling to visitors – such as liquor, with the exception of beverages measuring less than 3.2%, can only be sold in retail liquor stores, which are not allowed to sell any other items, such as food, cigarettes, ice, etc.

Throughout the state’s history, the regulation of alcoholic beverages in Kansas has been a source of controversy with change efforts often producing heated debates.

Today, the Kansas Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control continues to enforce the Liquor Control Act and regulates over 2600 liquor licensees. However, they do not regulate the control of over 4,000 Cereal Malt Beverage licenses who sell only products with less than 3.2% alcohol, which regulated and controlled cities and counties.

So this might explain why this news piece, from the Boston Evening Transcript, titled “WOMEN WANT RE-ELECTION: A Lively Contest for Town Offices in Beattie, Kansas” from April 2nd, 1900 indicated that these women were very unlikely to get re-elected:

Interest in the state is centered on the town of Beattie, where the women and men of the place are engaged in a battle for offices of mayor, and Members of Council and School Board. A year ago an entire women ticket, headed by Mrs. Totten for mayor, was elected on a platform of reform and decency. The women pledged themselves to drive out the saloon and gambling dens, clean up the streets, and make Beattie a good place to live in. Every pledge has been fulfilled, and now the same women are asking for reelection.  The business men have put a ticket in the field in opposition to the women, headed: “For Progress, and Prosperity.” This, the women say, means a return of the saloons and gambling houses. The churches and Sunday schools are arrayed on the side of the women, and prayer and temperance meetings have been held nightly for two weeks. Despatches say that a great union temperance meeting was held last night preparatory to the battle today.

Below is the entire collection of women in public offices during the late 1800s and the early 1900s from the Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 12:

One thought on “Of Beattie, Kansas in 1899

  1. Pingback: Of Oskaloosa, Kansas in 1888 and 1889 | The Progressive Democrat

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