List of female governors in the United States

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As of February 2015, thirty-seven women have served or are serving as the governor of a U.S. state (including one from the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico). Currently, six women are serving as governors of U.S. states.

History[edit]

The first woman to act as governor was Carolyn B. Shelton, who served as "acting governor" of Oregon for one weekend – 9 a.m. Saturday, February 27, through 10 a.m. Monday, March 1, 1909. The outgoing governor, George Earle Chamberlain, had been elected to the Senate and had to leave for Washington, D.C., before his term was over, and the incoming governor, Frank W. Benson, had gotten sick and couldn't assume office early. Chamberlain left Shelton, his "Chief of Staff," in charge for the weekend.[1] Ironically enough, it would be another three and a half years before women would be allowed to vote in Oregon.[2] (As a side note, Chamberlain and Shelton married each other 17 years later.[3])

The first acting governor to be entrusted with substantial duties while in office was Soledad Chávez Chacón, who held the office of Governor of New Mexico for 2 weeks in 1924 while Governor James F. Hinkle attended the Democratic Convention in New York. Lieutenant Governor Jose A. Baca had died unexpectedly in May, so Chacón, the Secretary of State, filled the position. Chacón said she believed that her 1924 elevation was the first time in the U.S. that a woman had been called on to assume the responsibilities of governor.[4]

The first woman to assume office as governor pursuant to an election was Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming, who was elected on November 4, 1924, and sworn in on January 5, 1925.[5] She was preceded in office by her late husband, William B. Ross. Wyoming was the first state to provide women's suffrage[6] after New Jersey had abolished it in 1807. Elected on November 3, 1924, and sworn in on January 20, 1925, was Miriam A. Ferguson of Texas, whose husband, Governor James Edward Ferguson, had previously held the office but been impeached and removed from office in 1917.[7] The first female governor elected without being the wife or widow of a past state governor was Ella T. Grasso of Connecticut, elected in 1974 and sworn in on January 8, 1975.[8]

Demographics[edit]

Connecticut and Arizona are the only two states to have elected female governors from both major parties. New Hampshire has also had female governors from two parties, but Republican Vesta M. Roy served only in the acting capacity for a short time. Arizona was the first state where a woman followed another woman as governor (they were from different parties). Arizona also has had the most female governors with a total of four, and is the first state to have three women in a row serve as governor.

On two different occasions, a record nine out of 50 state governorships were held by women: first, between December 4, 2006, when Sarah Palin was inaugurated as the first female governor of Alaska, and January 14, 2008, when Kathleen Blanco left office as governor of Louisiana, and second, between January 10, 2009, when Beverly Perdue was inaugurated as governor of North Carolina, and January 20, 2009, when Ruth Ann Minner retired as governor of Delaware.

The U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, though not states, have also had female chief executives: Governor Sila María Calderón and Mayors Sharon Pratt Kelly and Muriel Bowser, respectively.

A total of 23 states have never had a female governor. Those states are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

List of Female State Governors[edit]

Picture Name State From To Party Notes
Nellie Tayloe Ross.jpg Nellie Tayloe Ross Wyoming 1925 1927 Democratic Widow of Governor William B. Ross (1923–1924). First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Wyoming. Retired
Miriam A. Ferguson.jpg Miriam A. Ferguson Texas 1925
1933
1927
1935
Democratic Wife of Governor James E. Ferguson (1915–1917). First woman to serve as Governor of Texas. Retired
Lurleen Wallace Alabama 1967 1968 Democratic Wife of Governor George Wallace (1963–1967, 1971–1979, & 1983-1987). First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Alabama. First (and only) female Governor to die in office. Died in Office
Ella Grasso.jpg Ella T. Grasso Connecticut 1975 1980 Democratic First female Governor not a wife or widow of a previous Governor. First woman to serve as Governor of Connecticut. First woman Governor in the United States to be elected to two consecutive terms, and the first to resign (terminal ovarian cancer). Resigned
Dixy Lee Ray.jpg Dixy Lee Ray Washington 1977 1981 Democratic First woman to serve as Governor of Washington. Lost renomination
Vesta M. Roy New Hampshire 1982 1983 Republican Acting Governor for a single week, never sworn in. Retired
Martha Layne Collins, governor of Kentucky, Nov 8, 1986.jpg Martha Layne Collins Kentucky 1983 1987 Democratic First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Kentucky. Retired
Mmk.jpg Madeleine M. Kunin Vermont 1985 1991 Democratic First female Jewish Governor of any state. First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Vermont. Retired
Kay A. Orr Nebraska 1987 1991 Republican First Republican woman elected Governor. First woman elected Governor over another female major party candidate. First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Nebraska. Defated
Rose Mofford.jpg Rose Perica Mofford Arizona 1988 1991 Democratic First woman to serve as Governor of Arizona. As Secretary of State, succeeded to the governorship following the impeachment and removal of previous Governor Evan Mecham. Retired
Joan Finney Kansas 1991 1995 Democratic First woman to serve as Governor of Kansas. First woman to defeat an incumbent Governor in a general election. Retired
Ann Richards.jpg Ann Richards Texas 1991 1995 Democratic Second female Governor of Texas. Defeated
Governor Barbara Roberts.jpg Barbara Roberts Oregon 1991 1995 Democratic First woman to serve and to be elected as Governor of Oregon. Retired
WhitmanChristineTodd.jpg Christine Todd Whitman New Jersey 1994 2001 Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of New Jersey. First Republican woman to defeat an incumbent Governor in a general election. Retired
Jane Dee Hull 2001.jpeg Jane Dee Hull Arizona 1997 2003 Republican First Republican woman to serve as Governor of Arizona. First woman to be elected Governor in Arizona. As Secretary of State, she had succeeded Fife Symington following his resignation, and was elected in her own right in 1998. Retired
Jeanne Shaheen, official Senate photo portrait, 2009.jpg Jeanne Shaheen New Hampshire 1997 2003 Democratic First woman elected to serve as Governor of New Hampshire. Retired
Nancy P. Hollister Ohio 1998 1999 Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Ohio. As Lt. Governor, succeeded to the office when Governor George Voinovich resigned. She was governor for 12 days. Retired
Jane Swift 2001.jpeg Jane Swift Massachusetts 2001 2003 Republican Acting Governor. At age 36, youngest female governor in US history.[9] First Governor to give birth while in office (to twins). Retired
Martz hirez.jpg Judy Martz Montana 2001 2005 Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Montana. Retired
Ruth Ann Minner.jpg Ruth Ann Minner Delaware 2001 2009 Democratic First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Delaware. Retired
Linda Lingle in March 2010.jpg Linda Lingle Hawaii 2002 2010 Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Hawaii. Retired
Olene Walker.JPG Olene Smith Walker Utah 2003 2005 Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Utah. Lost renomination
Jennifer Granholm.jpg Jennifer Granholm Michigan 2003 2011 Democratic First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Michigan. Also the second Canadian-born Governor of a US State, after Frank Bell of Nevada. Retired
Janet Napolitano official portrait.jpg Janet Napolitano Arizona 2003 2009 Democratic First woman to be elected to two terms as Governor of Arizona. Third woman to serve as Governor overall. Resigned to become Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration. First woman to immediately succeed another woman as Governor.
Kathleen Sebelius official portrait.jpg Kathleen Sebelius Kansas 2003 2009 Democratic Resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama Administration.
KBlancoChalmetteIce.jpg Kathleen Blanco Louisiana 2004 2008 Democratic First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Louisiana. Retired
FEMA - 29383 - Photograph by Debra Young taken on 04-19-2007 in Connecticut.jpg M. Jodi Rell Connecticut 2004 2011 Republican As Lieutenant Governor, she succeeded to the office when Governor John G. Rowland resigned. Was elected in her own right in 2006. Retired
ChristineGregoireOfficial.jpg Christine Gregoire Washington 2005 2013 Democratic Prior to her election to the Governorship, she was Washington's first female attorney general.
Sarah Palin by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg Sarah Palin Alaska 2006 2009 Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Alaska (also Alaska's youngest Governor). First female Governor of any state to appear on a major party presidential ticket, as the Republican candidate for vice president in 2008. First elected governor to give birth while in office. Resigned
Beverly Perdue official photo.jpg Beverly Perdue North Carolina 2009 2013 Democratic First woman (and only to date) to serve as Governor of North Carolina. Retired
Jan Brewer by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg Jan Brewer Arizona 2009 2015 Republican As Secretary of State, she succeeded to the office when Governor Janet Napolitano resigned. Third consecutive woman to serve as Governor of Arizona, and the fourth overall, a national record. Was elected in her own right in 2010. Retired
Governor NewMexico.jpg Susana Martinez New Mexico 2011 Present Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of New Mexico. First female Hispanic American Governor outside Puerto Rico.
Mary Fallin.jpg Mary Fallin Oklahoma 2011 Present Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Oklahoma. Prior to her election to the governorship, she was Oklahoma's first female Lieutenant Governor.
Official Photo of SC Governor Nikki Haley.jpg Nikki Haley South Carolina 2011 Present Republican First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of South Carolina. First non-Caucasian Governor of South Carolina. First female Indian American (and Asian American) Governor. Also (as of January 2015), the youngest current Governor.
Maggie Hassan inaugural address.jpg Maggie Hassan New Hampshire 2013 Present Democratic Second woman elected to serve as Governor of New Hampshire.
Gina Raimondo.png Gina Raimondo Rhode Island 2015 Present Democratic First (and only) woman to serve as Governor of Rhode Island.
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, cropped.jpg Kate Brown Oregon 2015 Present Democratic As Secretary of State, she succeeded to the office when Governor John Kitzhaber resigned. Second woman to serve as Governor of Oregon and first openly bisexual United States Governor.

Women who have held Governor-equivalent positions[edit]

Picture Name Jurisdiction From To Party Notes
Sharon Pratt Kelly.png Sharon Pratt Kelly District of Columbia 1991 1995 Democratic First African-American woman to serve as mayor of a major American city. First woman to serve as Mayor of District of Columbia.
Puerto Rican Governor Sila Calderon at the Pentagon, Feb 27, 2001.jpg Sila María Calderón Puerto Rico 2001 2005 Popular Democratic Party* First woman to serve as Governor of Puerto Rico. Formerly Puerto Rico's secretary of State and mayor of San Juan.

Popular Democratic Party: While it generally aligns with the U.S. Democratic Party, it is not a formal branch or affiliate, and is characterized in Puerto Rican politics mainly by support for continued status as a U.S. commonwealth, contrasting other major parties advocating statehood and independence.

Muriel-bowser.jpg Muriel Bowser District of Columbia 2015 Present Democratic The second woman and African-American woman to serve as Mayor of District of Columbia.

Timeline of female U.S. Governors[edit]

Kate Brown Gina Raimondo Maggie Hassan Nikki Haley Mary Fallin Susana Martinez Jan Brewer Beverly Perdue Sarah Palin Christine Gregoire M. Jodi Rell Kathleen Blanco Olene Smith Walker Kathleen Sebelius Janet Napolitano Jennifer Granholm Linda Lingle Ruth Ann Minner Judy Martz Jane Swift Nancy P. Hollister Jane Dee Hull Jeanne Shaheen Christine Todd Whitman Ann Richards Barbara Roberts Joan Finney Rose Perica Mofford Kay Orr Madeleine M. Kunin Martha Layne Collins Vesta M. Roy Dixy Lee Ray Ella T. Grasso Lurleen Wallace Miriam A. Ferguson Miriam A. Ferguson Nellie Tayloe Ross

References[edit]

  1. ^ Long, James Andrew (1994). Oregon Firsts: Past and Present. North Plains, Ore.: Oregon Firsts Media. p. 57. ISBN 1-882635-00-0. 
  2. ^ Kessler, Lauren (1983). "The Ideas of Woman Suffrage and the Mainstream Press". Oregon Historical Quarterly 84: 257–76. 
  3. ^ "Milestones: Jul. 26, 1926". Time Magazine. July 26, 1926. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Albuquerque Journal, October 24, 2010, reporting on an article from Albuquerque Morning Journal, June 21, 1924.
  5. ^ "Today in History". The Library of Congress. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  6. ^ http://www.nellietayloeross.com/Virginia%20Scharff%20Article.pdf
  7. ^ "Governors of Texas, 1846-present". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  8. ^ http://www.essortment.com/all/ellagrasso_rfxy.htm
  9. ^ "Swift’s Unusual Ride to the Governor’s Office". Boston Globe. April 8, 2001. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 

External links[edit]