Ella T. Grasso
|Ella T. Grasso|
|83rd Governor of Connecticut|
January 8, 1975 – December 31, 1980
|Preceded by||Thomas Meskill|
|Succeeded by||William O'Neill|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Connecticut's 6th district
January 3, 1971 – January 3, 1975
|Preceded by||Thomas Meskill|
|Succeeded by||Toby Moffett|
|64th Secretary of the State of Connecticut|
January 3, 1959 – January 3, 1971
|Preceded by||Mildred Allen|
|Succeeded by||Gloria Schaffer|
Ella Rosa Giovianna Oliva Tambussi|
May 10, 1919
Windsor Locks, Connecticut, U.S.
February 5, 1981 (aged 61)|
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Saint Mary's Cemetery |
Windsor Locks, Connecticut
|Education||Mount Holyoke College (BA, MA)|
Ella Grasso (May 10, 1919 – February 5, 1981) was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as the 83rd Governor of Connecticut from January 8, 1975 to December 31, 1980. She was the first woman elected to this office and the first woman to be elected governor of a U.S. state without having been the spouse or widow of a former governor.
Ella Rosa Giovianna Oliva Tambussi was born in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, to Italian immigrant parents Maria (née Oliva) and Giacomo Tambussi, a mill worker. After attending St. Mary's School, Windsor Locks, and the Chaffee School, Windsor, she attended Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she earned her B.A. in 1940, and her M.A. two years later. After graduation, she served as assistant director of research for the War Manpower Commission of Connecticut.
In 1952, Grasso was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives and served until 1957. She became first woman to be elected Floor Leader of the House in 1955. In 1958 she was elected Secretary of the State of Connecticut and was re-elected in 1962 and 1966. She was the first woman to chair the Democratic State Platform Committee and served from 1956 to 1968. She served as a member of the Platform Drafting Committee for the 1960 Democratic National Convention. She was the co-chairman for the Resolutions Committee for the Democratic National Conventions of 1964 and 1968. In 1970 she was elected as a Democratic representative to the 92nd Congress, and won re-election in 1972.
In 1974, Grasso did not run for re-election to Congress, instead running for the Connecticut governorship, and won. Contrary to popular belief, she was not the first elected woman to serve as governor of a U.S. state; however, Grasso was the first woman who was elected governor without being the wife or widow of a past governor.
Grasso was re-elected in 1978 with little difficulty.
A high point of her career was her decisive handling of a particularly devastating snow storm in February 1978. Known as "Winter Storm Larry" and now known as "The Blizzard of 78" this storm dropped around 30 inches of snow across the state, crippling highways and making virtually all roads impassable. In a bold move, she "Closed the State" by proclamation, and forbade all use of public roads by businesses and citizens and closed all businesses, effectively closing all citizens in their homes. This relieved the rescue and cleanup authorities from the need to help the mounting number of stuck cars, and instead allowed clean-up and emergency services for shut-ins to proceed. The crisis ended on the third day, and she received accolades from all state sectors for her leadership and strength.
Grasso was married to Thomas Grasso in 1942, and together they had two children, Susanne and James. In March 1980, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and resigned from office on December 31. She died on February 5, 1981 at the age of 61.
Over two years later, a group led by Arnold Chase and his company, Arch Communications Corp., won a construction permit for Hartford's channel 61 in September 1983; James Grasso was minority partner in Arch Communications. Chase planned to memorialize Grasso by having the call letters for channel 61 stand for Grasso's initials as WETG. As a station in Erie, Pennsylvania held the WETG calls however, Chase instead asked his father, who owned WTIC radio, permission to re-use those calls for the new television station (which had been used by WFSB until 1974), which came to the air on September 17, 1984 as WTIC-TV, and was dedicated in Grasso's honor.
Later that year, President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Women's Hall of Fame inducted her in 1993. She was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame in 1994; the Ella Tambussi Grasso Center for Women in Politics is located there.
Metro North named Shoreliner I car 6252 after her. Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School in Groton is named after her. The Ella T. Grasso Turnpike in Windsor Locks is named after her, as are Ella Grasso Boulevard in New Britain and Ella T. Grasso Boulevard (often referred to by New Haven locals simply as "The Boulevard") in New Haven.
- Ware, S.; Braukman, S.L.; Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2004). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century. 5. Belknap Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-674-01488-6. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
- "Ella T. Grasso Papers Open to Public". www.mtholyoke.edu. Retrieved 2018-03-14.
- Wald, Matthew (1981-02-06). "Ex-Gov. Grasso of Connecticut Dead of Cancer". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
- "Grasso Closes the State" by proclamation". Connecticut State Library. Archived from the original on February 6, 2013. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
- "Blizzard Of 1978: Feb. 6-7, 1978: The Blizzard Of '78 Shut Down The State And Made Heroes Out Of Those With Four-Wheel Drive". Hartford Courant. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
- Lieberman, Joseph I. The Legacy: Connecticut Politics, 1930–1980 (1981).
- Purmont, Jon E. Ella Grasso: Connecticut's Pioneering Governor (2012)
- Whalen, Ardyce C. "The presentation of image in Ella T. Grasso's campaign." Communication Studies (1976) 27#3 pp: 207-211.
- Brief biography
- Ella T. Grasso Papers at Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
- Connecticut State Library Bio
- Photo of Grasso's Statue on the Connecticut State Capitol building – the first woman to be represented there
- Brief Bio of Governor Grasso
| Secretary of the State of Connecticut
| Governor of Connecticut
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's 6th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for Governor of Connecticut
| Chair of the Democratic Governors Association