Archive for Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Ahead of her time

Anna Mary Landauer, the city’s first elected female mayor, has pioneering roots

June 4, 2003

Shortly after losing her first election in 1990, Basehor political pioneer Anna Mary Landauer sat with her dying mother, Carrie Eble-Doegy, a pioneering woman in her own right.

Landauer had just completed a six-year stretch as the city's mayor and, during 20 years in city politics, never tasted defeat during an election.

That streak ended in 1990 when the inexplicable happened -- Anna Mary Landauer lost.

Despite her condition, Eble-Doegy showed concern for her eldest child's state of mind.

"She said 'how do you feel about this?'" Landauer said. "And I said, 'Momma, the best is yet to come.'"

Landauer, 85, a long-time city resident as much a part of Basehor as 155th Street, is the first woman in Basehor history to become a City Council member, and the only woman ever elected mayor.

By breaking into the traditionally all-male Basehor government circle, Landauer helped pave the way for other women, such as Margaret Sterner and later Iris Dysart, to become City Council members.

Dysart, a current City Council member, said she received plenty of support, encouragement and help from Landauer in her bid to win a City Council position.

"I may have been a little reluctant (to run for City Council) if not for her," Dysart said. "I figured if she could do it, I could too."

Dysart said she thinks more women will run for city government partly because of the example set by Landauer.

"I think there are a lot of women that could do it and think that's something we'll see more of in the future," she said.

The example set by Landauer is directly attributed to the lessons she learned from her mother.

The words Landauer uttered after her election loss were more than just consolation to a dying parent; the simple phrase is the guiding principle Eble-Doegy taught all her children.

Those words helped the Tonganoxie farming family battle through floods, droughts, deaths, fires, poverty and just about every other instance of adversity that was heaped upon them.

"I think all those things helped make us strong," Landauer said. "Momma always said don't look back, always look ahead, so that's what we did."

Eble-Doegy's influence on Anna Mary proved to be more than just philosophical -- albeit in different ways, the two women broke through barriers never ventured into by women of that time.

While women around the country were protesting for equal rights, Eble-Doegy, much to the chagrin of her male counterparts, farmed her family's 200 acres "as well as any man could have," her daughter said.

"She got made fun of all the time," Landauer said. "She went to work in the fields just like a man."

Eble-Doegy lost her husband in 1929. She was a single mother raising four children at age 36.

By 1939, she battled through sexual bias and the Great Depression and paid off all family debts. Hers was a life that almost never enjoyed leisure, Landauer said.

Eble-Doegy grew corn, soybeans and hay and milked cows morning and night.

After a fire burned down the family's home, Eble-Doegy told her children to be thankful.

"She said nobody got hurt," Landauer said. "We got what we need -- maybe not what we want, but what we need."

Following the fire, Eble-Doegy again pointed to brighter days and a year later the family moved into their rebuilt home.

Landauer worked during those days as well. As the eldest of the four children, she was in charge of running the household while her mother worked the farm fields.

"Other girls play house in a make-believe house," Landauer's mother told her. "You've got a real house to play in."

After Anna Mary Doegy married Joe Landauer, the couple moved to Basehor in 1945, where to this day Landauer remains entrenched in the goings-on of the community. She brought her mother's work ethic with her to the city she's called home for the past 58 years.

She's a voice in local government, attending City Council meetings regularly, a member of an organization designed to teach residents homemaking and family skills, a member of the Leavenworth County Council on Aging and volunteers weekly at the Hickory Villa senior center, where she helps serve lunch.

"I was taught to do anything you can to make your family better and your community a better place to live," Landauer said.

"I like to know what's going on in our community," she said. "I like to see prominent things happen for all people."

And still today, Landauer reverts back to the simple words passed down from her mother.

"There's always better things ahead if you look at it that way," Landauer said. "I have good health in all ways, mind, body and soul.

"I hope to live as long as my mother or older," she said. "And I plan to stay right here."

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