List of female governors in the United States

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Incumbent U.S. governors by sex:
  Male
  Female
Number of female governors by U.S. state or territory (past and present):
  0
  1
  2
  3
  4 or more

As of January 2021, 43 women have served or are serving as the governor of a U.S. state (two acting governors due to vacancies) and three women have served or are serving as the governor of an unincorporated U.S. territory. Two women have served or are serving as Mayor of the District of Columbia. Currently, eight women are serving as governors of U.S. states, along with the Mayor of the District of Columbia Muriel Bowser and territorial governor Lou Leon Guerrero of Guam.

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 U.S. Senate and had to leave for Washington, D.C., before his term was over; the incoming governor, Frank W. Benson, had gotten sick and could not assume office early. Chamberlain left Shelton, his secretary, in charge for the weekend.[1] It was another three and a half years before women were allowed to vote in Oregon.[2][a]

The first woman to be 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 two weeks in 1924 while Governor James F. Hinkle attended the Democratic Convention in New York. Lieutenant Governor José 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 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.[5] Wyoming was the first state to provide women's suffrage[6] 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.[7] The first woman elected governor 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]

To date, no woman has ever changed parties during her gubernatorial term, been elected as a third party member or an independent, or, after resigning from the governorship, been appointed to the United States Senate by her successor.

Demographics[edit]

Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut and New Mexico are the only four states to have elected women as governors from both major parties. Arizona was the first state where a woman followed another woman as governor (they were from different parties). Arizona also has had the most with a total of four, and is the first state to have three women in a row serve as governor.

A record nine out of 50 state governorships have been held by women since Kristi Noem was inaugurated as governor of South Dakota on January 5, 2019, until Gina Raimondo resigned as governor of Rhode Island on March 2, 2021, to become Secretary of Commerce. This ties a record previously met on two occasions: first, between December 4, 2006, when Sarah Palin was inaugurated as 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. Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, though not states, have also had woman as chief executives: Sila María Calderón and Wanda Vázquez Garced of Puerto Rico and Sharon Pratt Kelly and Muriel Bowser of DC. Additionally, Lou Leon Guerrero has served as the governor of Guam since January 2019.

As of 2021, a total of 20 states have never had a woman as governor. Those states are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Six states (Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Utah) have never seen a major party nominate a woman in a gubernatorial election, although nine consecutive lieutenant governors have been women in Minnesota, from 1983 to the present day.[9]

Three women of color has been state governors: Susana Martinez and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico (both Hispanic) and Nikki Haley of South Carolina (Asian American). Martinez and Haley are both Republican; Lujan Grisham is a Democrat. Additionally, all five women who governed an insular area have been of an ethnic minority group: Sharon Pratt and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. (both African American), Sila María Calderón and Wanda Vázquez Garced of Puerto Rico (both Hispanic) and Lou Leon Guerrero of Guam (Pacific Islander), all Democratic, with the exception of Vázquez Garced, who is a Republican.

State governors[edit]

Portrait Name
(lifespan)
State Term start Term end Party Notes Departure Ref
Nellie Tayloe Ross.jpg Nellie Ross
(1876–1977)
Wyoming Wyoming January 5, 1925 January 3, 1927 Democratic Widow of Governor William B. Ross.
First and only woman as Governor of Wyoming.
First woman elected in a special election.
Lost reelection [10]
Mrs. Jas. E. (Miriam) Ferguson LCCN2014717420.tif Miriam A. Ferguson
(1875–1961)
Texas Texas January 20, 1925 January 17, 1927 Democratic Wife of Governor James E. Ferguson.
First woman as Governor of Texas.
First woman elected in a general election.
Retired [11]
January 17, 1933 January 15, 1935 Retired
Lurleen Wallace.jpg Lurleen Wallace
(1926–1968)
Alabama Alabama January 16, 1967 May 7, 1968 Democratic Wife of Governor George Wallace.
First woman as Governor of Alabama.
First and only woman to die in office as governor.
Died in office
Ella Grasso.jpg Ella T. Grasso
(1919–1981)
Connecticut Connecticut January 8, 1975 December 31, 1980 Democratic First woman elected not a wife or widow of a previous governor.
First woman as Governor of Connecticut.
First woman to resign as governor, due to terminal ovarian cancer.
Resigned [12]
Dixy Lee Ray.jpg Dixy Lee Ray
(1914–1994)
Washington (state) Washington January 12, 1977 January 14, 1981 Democratic First woman as Governor of Washington. Lost renomination [13]
Martha Layne Collins, governor of Kentucky, Nov 8, 1986 (cropped).jpg Martha Collins
(born 1936)
Kentucky Kentucky December 13, 1983 December 8, 1987 Democratic First and only woman as Governor of Kentucky. Term-limited [14]
Madeleine kunin 20041011.jpg Madeleine Kunin
(born 1933)
Vermont Vermont January 10, 1985 January 10, 1991 Democratic First and only woman as Governor of Vermont.
First foreign-born woman as governor
Retired [15]
Kay Orr 2017.jpg Kay A. Orr
(born 1939)
Nebraska Nebraska January 9, 1987 January 9, 1991 Republican First Republican woman elected to a governorship.[b]
First woman elected to a governorship over another woman nominated by a major party.
First and only woman as Governor of Nebraska.
Lost reelection [16]
Rose Mofford 2012.jpg Rose Mofford
(1922–2016)
Arizona Arizona April 4, 1988 March 6, 1991 Democratic First woman as Governor of Arizona.
Elevated from Secretary of State.
Retired [17]
Joan Finney (Kansas Governor).jpg Joan Finney
(1925–2001)
Kansas Kansas January 14, 1991 January 9, 1995 Democratic First woman as Governor of Kansas.
First woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
Retired [18]
Governor Barbara Roberts.jpg Barbara Roberts
(born 1936)
Oregon Oregon January 14, 1991 January 9, 1995 Democratic First woman as Governor of Oregon. Retired
Ann Richards.jpg Ann Richards
(1933–2006)
Texas Texas January 15, 1991 January 17, 1995 Democratic Lost reelection [19]
Christine Todd Whitman 412-APD-A5-EPA13a.jpg Christine Todd Whitman
(born 1946)
New Jersey New Jersey January 18, 1994 January 31, 2001 Republican First and only woman as Governor of New Jersey.
First Republican woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
Resigned to become EPA Administrator [20]
Jeanne Shaheen, official Senate photo portrait, 2009 (cropped).jpg Jeanne Shaheen
(born 1947)
New Hampshire New Hampshire January 9, 1997 January 9, 2003 Democratic First woman elected Governor of New Hampshire.[b]
First woman elected as both Governor and U.S. Senator.
Retired [22][23]
Jane Dee Hull by Gage Skidmore.jpg Jane Dee Hull
(1935–2020)
Arizona Arizona September 5, 1997 January 6, 2003 Republican Elevated from Secretary of State.
Later elected in her own right.
Term-limited
Nancy Hollister (Ohio governor).jpg Nancy Hollister
(born 1949)
Ohio Ohio December 31, 1998 January 11, 1999 Republican First and only woman as Governor of Ohio.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor.
Term ended
Judy Martz 2003.jpg Judy Martz
(1943–2017)
Montana Montana January 1, 2001 January 3, 2005 Republican First and only woman as Governor of Montana. Retired
Ruth Ann Minner.jpg Ruth Ann Minner
(born 1935)
Delaware Delaware January 3, 2001 January 20, 2009 Democratic First and only woman as Governor of Delaware. Term-limited
Jane Swift 2001.jpeg Jane Swift
(born 1965)
Massachusetts Massachusetts April 10, 2001 January 2, 2003 Republican First and only woman as Governor of Massachusetts.
Elevated to acting governor while Lieutenant Governor.
First to give birth while in office.[24]
Retired
Linda Lingle in March 2010.jpg Linda Lingle
(born 1953)
Hawaii Hawaii December 2, 2002 December 6, 2010 Republican First and only woman as Governor of Hawaii. Term-limited
Jennifer Granholm (cropped 2).jpg Jennifer Granholm
(born 1959)
Michigan Michigan January 1, 2003 January 1, 2011 Democratic First woman as Governor of Michigan. Term-limited
Janet Napolitano official portrait.jpg Janet Napolitano
(born 1957)
Arizona Arizona January 6, 2003 January 21, 2009 Democratic First woman to succeed another woman Resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security
Kathleen Sebelius official portrait.jpg Kathleen Sebelius
(born 1948)
Kansas Kansas January 13, 2003 April 28, 2009 Democratic Resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
Olene Walker.JPG Olene Walker
(1930–2015)
Utah Utah November 5, 2003 January 3, 2005 Republican First and only woman as Governor of Utah.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor.
Lost nomination for full term
KBlancoChalmetteIce.jpg Kathleen Blanco
(1942–2019)
Louisiana Louisiana January 12, 2004 January 14, 2008 Democratic First and only woman as Governor of Louisiana. Retired
FEMA - 29383 - Photograph by Debra Young taken on 04-19-2007 in Connecticut.jpg Jodi Rell
(born 1946)
Connecticut Connecticut July 1, 2004 January 5, 2011 Republican Elevated from Lieutenant Governor.
Later elected in her own right.
Retired
ChristineGregoireOfficial.jpg Christine Gregoire
(born 1947)
Washington (state) Washington January 12, 2005 January 16, 2013 Democratic Retired
Sarah Palin by Gage Skidmore 2 (cropped 3x4).jpg Sarah Palin
(born 1964)
Alaska Alaska December 4, 2006 July 26, 2009 Republican First and only woman as Governor of Alaska Resigned
Beverly Perdue official photo.jpg Bev Perdue
(born 1947)
North Carolina North Carolina January 10, 2009 January 5, 2013 Democratic First and only woman as Governor of North Carolina. Retired
Jan Brewer by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg Jan Brewer
(born 1944)
Arizona Arizona January 21, 2009 January 5, 2015 Republican Elevated from Secretary of State.
Later elected in her own right.
Term-limited
Governor NewMexico.jpg Susana Martinez
(born 1959)
New Mexico New Mexico January 1, 2011 January 1, 2019 Republican First woman as Governor of New Mexico. Term-limited
Governor Mary Fallin May 2015.jpg Mary Fallin
(born 1954)
Oklahoma Oklahoma January 10, 2011 January 14, 2019 Republican First and only woman as Governor of Oklahoma. Term-limited
Official Photo of SC Governor Nikki Haley.jpg Nikki Haley
(born 1972)
South Carolina South Carolina January 12, 2011 January 24, 2017 Republican First and only woman as Governor of South Carolina.
First Asian American woman serving as governor.
Resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Maggie Hassan, official portrait, 115th Congress.jpg Maggie Hassan
(born 1958)
New Hampshire New Hampshire January 3, 2013 January 2, 2017 Democratic Second woman elected as both Governor and U.S. Senator. Resigned to become a U.S. Senator.
Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.jpg Gina Raimondo
(born 1971)
Rhode Island Rhode Island January 6, 2015 March 2, 2021 Democratic First and only woman as Governor of Rhode Island. Resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce [25]
Kate Brown in 2017.jpg Kate Brown
(born 1960)
Oregon Oregon February 18, 2015 Incumbent Democratic First openly bisexual governor and first openly LGBT elected governor.
Elevated from Secretary of State.
Later elected in her own right.
Serving
Portrait-Governor-Kay-Ivey.jpg Kay Ivey
(born 1944)
Alabama Alabama April 10, 2017 Incumbent Republican Elevated from Lieutenant Governor.
Later elected in her own right.
Serving [26]
Kim Reynolds by Gage Skidmore (cropped).jpg Kim Reynolds
(born 1959)
Iowa Iowa May 24, 2017 Incumbent Republican First woman as Governor of Iowa.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor.
Later elected in her own right.
Serving [27]
Gretchen Whitmer Portrait.jpg Gretchen Whitmer
(born 1971)
Michigan Michigan January 1, 2019 Incumbent Democratic Serving
Michelle Lujan Grisham official photo (cropped 2).jpg Michelle Lujan Grisham
(born 1959)
New Mexico New Mexico January 1, 2019 Incumbent Democratic Serving
Maine congressional delegation meets with Gov Janet Mills (cropped).jpg Janet Mills
(born 1947)
Maine Maine January 2, 2019 Incumbent Democratic First woman as Governor of Maine. Serving
Kristi L. Noem 113th Congress.jpg Kristi Noem
(born 1971)
South Dakota South Dakota January 5, 2019 Incumbent Republican First woman as Governor of South Dakota. Serving
Laura Kelly official photo.jpg Laura Kelly
(born 1950)
Kansas Kansas January 14, 2019 Incumbent Democratic Serving

Territories and the District of Columbia[edit]

Portrait Name
(lifespan)
Jurisdiction Term start Term end Party Notes Departure
Sharon Pratt Kelly.jpg Sharon Pratt
(born 1944)
Washington, D.C. District of Columbia January 2, 1991 January 2, 1995 Democratic First African American woman elected mayor of a major city.
First woman as Mayor of the District of Columbia.
Lost renomination
Puerto Rican Governor Sila Calderon at the Pentagon, Feb 27, 2001.jpg Sila Calderón
(born 1942)
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico January 2, 2001 January 2, 2005 Popular Democratic/
Democratic
First woman as Governor of Puerto Rico.
First Hispanic American woman as governor.
Retired
Muriel Bowser 2 cropped.jpg Muriel Bowser
(born 1972)
Washington, D.C. District of Columbia January 2, 2015 Incumbent Democratic Serving
Lou Leon Guerrero in 2018.jpeg Lou Leon Guerrero
(born 1950)
Guam Guam January 7, 2019 Incumbent Democratic First and only woman as Governor of Guam.
First Pacific Islander American woman as governor.
Serving
IWanda Vazquez Garced IMG 3858 3.jpg Wanda Vázquez Garced
(born 1960)
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico August 7, 2019 January 2, 2021 New Progressive/
Republican
Elevated from Secretary of Justice when Pedro Pierluisi was removed quo warranto. Lost renomination

Timeline of women serving as governors[edit]

Wanda Vázquez GarcedLaura KellyLou Leon GuerreroKristi NoemJanet MillsMichelle Lujan GrishamGretchen WhitmerKim ReynoldsKay IveyKate BrownGina RaimondoMuriel BowserMaggie HassanNikki HaleyMary FallinSusana MartinezJan BrewerBev PerdueSarah PalinChristine GregoireJodi RellKathleen BlancoOlene WalkerKathleen SebeliusJanet NapolitanoJennifer GranholmLinda LingleJane SwiftRuth Ann MinnerSila María CalderónJudy MartzNancy HollisterJane Dee HullJeanne ShaheenChristine Todd WhitmanAnn RichardsBarbara RobertsJoan FinneySharon Pratt KellyRose MoffordKay OrrMadeleine KuninMartha Layne CollinsVesta M. RoyDixy Lee RayElla T. GrassoLurleen WallaceMiriam A. FergusonMiriam A. FergusonNellie Tayloe Ross
Governors who have been pregnant while in office
Governor State Date of delivery Mother's age Notes
Jane Swift Massachusetts May 14, 2001 36 First sitting governor to give birth while in office. Gave birth to twin girls one month into her term of office[28]
Sarah Palin Alaska April 18, 2008 44 Gave birth to son, Trig while in office. [29]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Chamberlain and Shelton married each other 17 years later.[3]
  2. ^ a b Vesta M. Roy served as Acting Governor of New Hampshire from December 29, 1982 to January 6, 1983.[21]

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. July 26, 1926. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  4. ^ Albuquerque Journal, October 24, 2010, reporting on an article from Albuquerque Morning Journal, June 21, 1924.
  5. ^ "Today in History". Library of Congress. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  6. ^ Lasky, Mandy (October 12, 2019). "How Nellie Tayloe Ross became the nation's first female governor". Casper Star-Tribune.
  7. ^ "Governors of Texas, 1846–present". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  8. ^ "Ella Grasso: First Woman Elected State Governor". Essortment. May 16, 1986. Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  9. ^ "Minnesota: Where Female Lieutenant Governors Reign | Smart Politics". editions.lib.umn.edu. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  10. ^ Rea, Tom. "The Ambition of Nellie Tayloe Ross". Wyoming State Historical Society. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  11. ^ Huddlston, D. John (June 12, 2010). "Ferguson, Miriam Amanda Wallace [Ma]". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "From Mt. Rainier to the Governorship of Washington, Dixy Lee Ray Was a Climber". American Association of University Women. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  14. ^ Crawford, Allison (March 29, 2016). "Former Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins Partners with Baptist Health Paducah". Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ Hickey, Donald R.; Wunder, Susan A.; Wunder, John R. (January 1, 2007). Nebraska Moments. U of Nebraska Press. p. 340. ISBN 978-0803215726.
  17. ^ Bland, Karina; Harris, Craig (September 16, 2016). "Rose Mofford, first woman to serve as Arizona governor, has died". azcentral. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  18. ^ Myers, By Roger (July 29, 2001). "Trailblazer did it her way". cjonline.com. Archived from the original on August 1, 2001. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  19. ^ Ratcliffe, R.G.; Kilday, Ann Marie (September 13, 2006). "Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards dies at 73". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  20. ^ "Governor Christine Todd Whitman Gubernatorial Timeline". Rutgers.edu. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  21. ^ "Vesta Roy, 76, New Hampshire Ex-Governor". The New York Times. Associated Press. February 22, 2002. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  22. ^ "Gov. Jeanne Shaheen". NGA.org. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  23. ^ "Granite State Stories: Jeanne Shaheen is first woman elected governor of New Hampshire". Concord Monitor. September 28, 2017. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  24. ^ "Swift's Unusual Ride to the Governor's Office". Boston Globe. April 8, 2001. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
  25. ^ Herbst-Bayliss, Sva (November 4, 2014). "Democrat Gina Raimondo becomes Rhode Island's first female governor". Reuters. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  26. ^ NBC, AP. "New Information: Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey sworn in as Alabama's 54th governor". Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  27. ^ Noble, Jason (May 24, 2017). "Kim Reynolds becomes Iowa's first female governor". Des Moines Register. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 9, 2018. Retrieved April 9, 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Palin confirms baby has Down syndrome (04/21/08): Gov. Sarah Palin family - adn.com". September 20, 2010. Archived from the original on September 20, 2010.

External link[edit]