List of female governors in the United States
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As of May 2017, forty-two women have served or are serving as the governor of a U.S. state (including one from the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, two Mayors of the District of Columbia and two acting governors due to vacancies). Currently, six women are serving as governors of U.S. states, along with Mayor of the District of Columbia Muriel Bowser.
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. Ironically enough, it would be another three and a half years before women would be allowed to vote in Oregon. (As a side note, Chamberlain and Shelton married each other 17 years later.)
The first acting governor to be entrusted with substantial duties while in office was Soledad Chávez de Chacón, who held the powers and duties 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.
The first woman to assume office as governor pursuant to a special election was Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming (widow of late Governor William B. Ross, served January 1923 to October 1924), who was elected on November 4, 1924, and sworn in on January 5, 1925. Wyoming was the first state to provide women's suffrage after New Jersey had abolished it in 1807. Elected on the November 3, 1924 general election, 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. 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.
Connecticut and Arizona are the only two states to have elected female governors from both major parties. New Hampshire and Alabama have also both had female governors from both parties. In New Hampshire, Republican Vesta M. Roy only served 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.
As of 2017, a total of 22 states have never had a female governor. Those states are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Nine of these states (Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah) have never even seen a major party nominate a female candidate in a gubernatorial election, even though Minnesota has elected seven consecutive female lieutenant governors from 1982 to the present day.
There have only been two ethnic minority female governors of states: Susana Martinez of New Mexico (Hispanic) and Nikki Haley of South Carolina (Indian American). All three territorial female governors have been ethnic minority: Sharon Pratt and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. (both African American), and Sila María Calderón of Puerto Rico (Hispanic).
List of female state governors
|State||Term start||Term end||Party||Notes||Departure||Ref|
|Ross, NellieNellie Ross
|Wyoming||January 5, 1925||January 3, 1927||Democratic||Widow of Governor William B. Ross.
First (and only to date) woman Governor of Wyoming.
First woman elected in a special election.
|Ferguson, Miriam A.Miriam A. Ferguson
|Texas||January 20, 1925||January 17, 1927||Democratic||Wife of Governor James E. Ferguson.
First woman Governor of Texas.
First woman elected in a general election.
|January 17, 1933||January 15, 1935||Retired|
|Wallace, LurleenLurleen Wallace
|Alabama||January 16, 1967||May 7, 1968||Democratic||Wife of Governor George Wallace.
First woman Governor of Alabama.
First (and only to date) woman governor to die in office.
|Died in office|
|Grasso, Ella T.Ella T. Grasso
|Connecticut||January 8, 1975||December 31, 1980||Democratic||First woman governor not a wife or widow of a previous governor.
First woman Governor of Connecticut
First woman governor to resign, due to terminal ovarian cancer.
|Ray, Dixy LeeDixy Lee Ray
|Washington||January 12, 1977||January 14, 1981||Democratic||First woman Governor of Washington.||Lost renomination|||
|Roy, Vesta M.Vesta M. Roy
|New Hampshire||December 29, 1982||January 6, 1983||Republican||First woman Acting Governor of New Hampshire.
|Collins, MarthaMartha Collins
|Kentucky||December 13, 1983||December 8, 1987||Democratic||First woman Governor of Kentucky.||Retired|||
|Kunin, MadeleineMadeleine Kunin
|Vermont||January 10, 1985||January 10, 1991||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Vermont.||Retired|||
|Orr, Kay A.Kay A. Orr
|Nebraska||January 9, 1987||January 9, 1991||Republican||First Republican woman elected governor.
First woman elected governor over another female major party nominee
First (and only to date) woman Governor of Nebraska.
|Mofford, RoseRose Mofford
|Arizona||April 4, 1988||March 6, 1991||Democratic||First woman Governor of Arizona.
Elevated from Secretary of State when Evan Mecham was impeached.
|Finney, JoanJoan Finney
|Kansas||January 14, 1991||January 9, 1995||Democratic||First woman Governor of Kansas.
First woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
|Roberts, BarbaraBarbara Roberts
|Oregon||January 14, 1991||January 9, 1995||Democratic||First woman Governor of Oregon.||Retired|
|Richards, AnnAnn Richards
|Texas||January 15, 1991||January 17, 1995||Democratic||Lost reelection|
|Todd Whitman, ChristineChristine Todd Whitman
|New Jersey||January 18, 1994||January 31, 2001||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of New Jersey.
First Republican woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
|Resigned to become Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.|
|Shaheen, JeanneJeanne Shaheen
|New Hampshire||January 9, 1997||January 9, 2003||Democratic||First woman elected Governor of New Hampshire.||Retired|
|Hull, Jane DeeJane Dee Hull
|Arizona||September 5, 1997||January 6, 2003||Republican||First Republican woman Governor of Arizona.
Elevated from Secretary of State when Fife Symington resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
|Hollister, NancyNancy Hollister
|Ohio||December 31, 1998||January 11, 1999||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Ohio.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when George Voinovich became U.S. Senator from Ohio.
|Martz, JudyJudy Martz
|Montana||January 1, 2001||January 3, 2005||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Montana.||Retired|
|Minner, Ruth AnnRuth Ann Minner
|Delaware||January 3, 2001||January 20, 2009||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Delaware.||Term limited|
|Swift, JaneJane Swift
|Massachusetts||April 10, 2001||January 2, 2003||Republican||First woman Acting Governor of Massachusetts.
First governor to give birth while in office (to twins).
Youngest woman governor to date at age 36.
|Lingle, LindaLinda Lingle
|Hawaii||December 2, 2002||December 6, 2010||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Hawaii.||Term limited|
|Granholm, JenniferJennifer Granholm
|Michigan||January 1, 2003||January 1, 2011||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Michigan.||Term limited|
|Napolitano, JanetJanet Napolitano
|Arizona||January 6, 2003||January 21, 2009||Democratic||First woman to be elected to two terms as Governor of Arizona.||Resigned to become Secretary of Homeland Security|
|Sebelius, KathleenKathleen Sebelius
|Kansas||January 13, 2003||April 28, 2009||Democratic||Resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.|
|Walker, OleneOlene Walker
|Utah||November 5, 2003||January 3, 2005||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Utah.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor of Utah when Mike Leavitt became Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
|Lost nomination for full term|
|Blanco, KathleenKathleen Blanco
|Louisiana||January 12, 2004||January 14, 2008||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Louisiana||Retired|
|Rell, JodiJodi Rell
|Connecticut||July 1, 2004||January 5, 2011||Republican||Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when John G. Rowland resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
|Gregoire, ChristineChristine Gregoire
|Washington||January 12, 2005||January 16, 2013||Democratic||Retired|
|Palin, SarahSarah Palin
|Alaska||December 4, 2006||July 26, 2009||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Alaska (also its youngest governor).
First woman governor to appear on a major party presidential ticket, as the 2008 Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States.
First elected governor to give birth while in office.
|Perdue, BevBev Perdue
|North Carolina||January 10, 2009||January 5, 2013||Democratic||First woman (and only to date) Governor of North Carolina.||Retired|
|Brewer, JanJan Brewer
|Arizona||January 21, 2009||January 5, 2015||Republican||Elevated from Secretary of State when Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security.
Later elected in her own right.
|Martinez, SusanaSusana Martinez
|New Mexico||January 1, 2011||Incumbent||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of New Mexico. First Hispanic-American woman Governor.||Serving|
|Fallin, MaryMary Fallin
|Oklahoma||January 10, 2011||Incumbent||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Oklahoma.||Serving|
|Haley, NikkiNikki Haley
|South Carolina||January 12, 2011||January 24, 2017||Republican||First (and only to date) woman Governor of South Carolina. First Asian-American woman governor.||Resigned to become United States Ambassador to the United Nations|
|Hassan, MaggieMaggie Hassan
|New Hampshire||January 3, 2013||January 2, 2017||Democratic||Resigned to become U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.|
|Raimondo, GinaGina Raimondo
|Rhode Island||January 6, 2015||Incumbent||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman Governor of Rhode Island.||Serving|||
|Brown, KateKate Brown
|Oregon||February 18, 2015||Incumbent||Democratic||First (and only to date) bisexual governor and first openly LGBT elected governor. Elevated from Secretary of State when John Kitzhaber resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
|Ivey, KayKay Ivey
|Alabama||April 10, 2017||Incumbent||Republican||Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when Robert Bentley resigned.||Serving|||
|Reynolds, KimKim Reynolds
|Iowa||May 24, 2017||Incumbent||Republican||Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when Terry Branstad became Ambassador to China. First (and only to date) woman Governor of Iowa.||Serving|||
Territories and the District of Columbia
|Jurisdiction||Term start||Term end||Party||Notes||Departure|
|Pratt, SharonSharon Pratt
|District of Columbia||January 2, 1991||January 2, 1995||Democratic||First African American woman mayor of a major city.
First woman Mayor of the District of Columbia.
|Calderón, SilaSila Calderón
|Puerto Rico||January 2, 2001||January 2, 2005||Popular Democratic/
|First woman Governor of Puerto Rico.||Retired|
|Bowser, MurielMuriel Bowser
|District of Columbia||January 2, 2015||Incumbent||Democratic||Second woman and African-American woman Mayor of the District of Columbia.||Serving|
Timeline of female U.S. Governors
- List of first gentlemen in the United States
- List of female lieutenant governors in the United States
- Long, James Andrew (1994). Oregon Firsts: Past and Present. North Plains, Ore.: Oregon Firsts Media. p. 57. ISBN 1-882635-00-0.
- Kessler, Lauren (1983). "The Ideas of Woman Suffrage and the Mainstream Press". Oregon Historical Quarterly. 84: 257–76.
- "Milestones: Jul. 26, 1926". Time. July 26, 1926. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
- Albuquerque Journal, October 24, 2010, reporting on an article from Albuquerque Morning Journal, June 21, 1924.
- "Today in History". Library of Congress. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- "Governors of Texas, 1846–present". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
- "Ella Grasso: First Woman Elected State Governor". Essortment. May 16, 1986. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
- "Minnesota: Where Female Lieutenant Governors Reign | Smart Politics". editions.lib.umn.edu. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
- Rea, Tom. "The Ambition of Nellie Tayloe Ross". Wyoming State Historical Society. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
- Huddlston, D. JOHN (June 12, 2010). "FERGUSON, MIRIAM AMANDA WALLACE [MA]". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
- Wald, Matthew L. (February 6, 1981). "EX-GOV. GRASSO OF CONNECTICUT DEAD OF CANCER". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
- "From Mt. Rainier to the Governorship of Washington, Dixy Lee Ray Was a Climber". American Association of University Women. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
- "Vesta Roy, 76, New Hampshire Ex-Governor". The New York Times. Associated Press. February 22, 2002. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
- Crawford, Allison (March 29, 2016). "Former Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins Partners with Baptist Health Paducah". Retrieved January 20, 2017.
- "Once a Refugee from Nazi Europe, Madeleine Kunin Takes Charge as Vermont’s First Woman Governor – Vol. 23 No. 13". People. April 1, 1985. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
- Hickey, Donald R.; Wunder, Susan A.; Wunder, John R. (2007-01-01). Nebraska Moments. U of Nebraska Press. p. 340. ISBN 080321572X.
- Bland, Karina; Harris, Craig (September 16, 2016). "Rose Mofford, first woman to serve as Arizona governor, has died". azcentral. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
- Myers, By Roger (July 29, 2001). "Trailblazer did it her way". cjonline.com. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- "Swift’s Unusual Ride to the Governor’s Office". Boston Globe. April 8, 2001. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
- Herbst-Bayliss, Sva (November 4, 2014). "Democrat Gina Raimondo becomes Rhode Island's first female governor". Reuters. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
- NBC, AP,. "NEW INFORMATION: Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey sworn in as Alabama's 54th governor". Retrieved 2017-04-11.
- Noble, Jason (May 24, 2017). "Kim Reynolds becomes Iowa's first female governor". Des Moines Register. Retrieved May 27, 2017.