by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator
Newton has had several women mayors, but who was the first?
A notice in the Evening Kansan Republican, Local News, 30 March 1945, (p. 4) gives a clue.
“Vote for Daisy D. Spencer and T.D. Hamilton. A Commission for the People.” (Advert. paid for by interested friends.)
Daisy D. Spencer was born 12 December 1884 to Oliver H. and Mary Bruce in Linn County, Kansas. She attended Kansas State Normal College at Emporia, Ks and taught school in eastern Kansas until her marriage to J. Oliver Spencer on 29 May 1909. The couple moved to Harvey County in approximately 1913 where they established Spencer Dairy. From 1922 through 1950, the Spencer’s lived at 900 Old Main, Newton while continuing dairy operations. The couple had 6 children; 3 boys and 3 girls.
On 30 September 1932, J. Oliver died “of a lingering illness, which had been acute since July.” He was 51 years old. Daisy continued to operate the dairy until she retired in 1950.
In 1945, Daisy decided to try something new and ran for a position on the Newton City Commission. Her slogan was “A Commission for the People.” T.D. Hamilton, “a Santa Fe yard master,” and Rex M. Moody, local businessman, were also on the ballot. The incumbent was Harold Lewis.
The April 4, 1945 Evening Kansan Republican carried the results of the elections held on April 3: “Daisy Spencer and T.D. Hamilton Elected.” Daisy received the most votes with 1274 total from all the wards for a four year term. T. D. Hamilton received 1251; and Harold Lewis – 727; Rex M. Moody – 720.
The Evening Kansan Republican reported after the first meeting of the new commission:
“For the first time in the history of Newton as an incorporated city, a lady has been sworn in and is now serving as mayor.”
Upon her election as mayor Mrs. Spencer
“thanked her associates, . . . and with some feeling expressed her appreciation of the honor of having been elected by the voters. . . . she pledged her very best efforts at all times to promote the interests of her home city -‘the best city in Kansas,’ . . . and to strive for harmony and cooperation in all laudable community effort.”
She served on the Newton City Commission from 1945-1949, and was mayor from 1945 to 1947. Throughout her life, Daisy was an active member of the community. She attended the First United Presbyterian Church, and was a founding member of the Golden Circle Farm Bureau Club. Other clubs included the Themian Federated Club, the DAR and the Button Belles Club. She was the first woman to be awarded Woman of the Year of the Federated Clubs of America in 1974.
Daisy Spencer died 15 June 1975. According to family tradition, Spencer Street in Newton is named for Daisy Dean Spencer, Newton’s first “Lady Mayor.”
- Evening Kansan Republican, 30 March 1945 (p. 4); 3 April 1945 (p. 1); 4 April 1945 (p. 1); 17 April 1945 (p. 1).
- “City’s only woman mayor dies” Newton Kansan 16 June 1975, (p. 1).
- Evening Kansan Republican, 1 October 1932 (p. 2) obituary for John Oliver Spencer.
- Find A Grave Memorial #25449566, “Daisy Dean Spencer” Maintained by Marianne.