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Local History

Dr. Carlie Souter Smith

Dr. Smith, First Woman Elected to City Council, Dies at Age 90

"The first woman elected to the Springfield City Council, Dr. Carlie Souter Smith, died Tuesday morning in her home after a long illness. She was 90. Dr. Smith, of 1223 S. Kentwood, was a well-known eye, ear, nose and throat specialist who served three terms on the council. She retired in 1955. Her late husband, Dr. Wallis Smith, who died in 1951, was a founder of the Smith-Glynn-Calloway Clinic. Mrs. Smith, a native of Fort Scott, Kan., received her degree in medicine from the University of Chicago medical school in 1912.

"Carl Stillwell, Housing Authority director and member of the original council, said being the first councilwoman under the council-manager form of government posed no problems for Mrs. Smith, who served from 1953 to 1967.

"‘She was totally accepted by the men with a great deal of respect,’ he said. ‘She entertained the council a number of times with her eloquent fashion, which didn’t make her less endeared. She had a sobering influence on council. Gentlemen will be gentlemen and even better if there is a lady present.’

"Funeral director Ralph Thieme, also a member of the original council, said he was an admirer of Mrs. Smith. ‘We sat side by side in council. She was a fine councilwoman, a fine person. She was anxious for the best for everybody.’

"Also on the council of 1953 was Joe Ben Wann, who said Mrs. Smith was ‘not only a fine doctor, but a great asset to our community.'

"‘She always seemed to be able to stabilize the council if there was a controversy. She was one of the top vote-getters not only because of her great ability and great character, but because people had great confidence in her ability.’

"Mrs. Smith became a member of Drury College’s board of Trustees in 1952 after the death of her husband, who had served the board since 1936. She was Springfield’s Woman of Achievement in 1951, and holds a citation for Christian citizenship from the International Organization for Church Women.

"She was listed in the first edition of Who’s Who of American Women, served on the Wallis Smith Foundation Board of the Springfield Baptist Hospital, and chaired the Committee on Conservation of Eyesight of the Missouri State Medical Association from 1946 to 1955."

Daily News, February 25, 1981.

A later correction stated:

"A headline in Tuesday’s editions of The Leader & Press incorrectly identified the late Dr. Carlie Souter Smith as the first woman on the Springfield City Council. Dr. Smith was the first woman elected to the City Council under the present form of government, which began in 1953.

The first woman to serve on the Springfield City Council was Mrs. Eula Handley, appointed to serve as city health commissioner in 1951."

Leader & Press, February 25, 1981

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