List of female governors in the United States

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Map of current governors by gender
States that have had female governors
  •   1
  •   2
  •   3
  •   4 or more

As of January 2017, forty women have served or are serving as the governor of a U.S. state (including one from the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and two Mayors of the District of Columbia). Currently, five women are serving as governors of U.S. states, along with Mayor of the District of Columbia Muriel Bowser.

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 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.[4]

The first woman to assume office as governor pursuant to an 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 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 both parties, but 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.

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. 9 of these states' major parties - Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah - have never nominated a female candidate for gubernatorial elections, even though Minnesota has elected 7 consecutive female lieutenant governors to office since 1982 to the present day.[9]

List of female state governors[edit]

Current[edit]

Picture Name State Term start Term end Party Notes
Governor NewMexico.jpg Martinez, SusanaSusana Martinez New Mexico January 1, 2011 Incumbent Republican First (and only to date) woman Governor of New Mexico.
First Latina governor outside Puerto Rico.
Mary Fallin.jpg Fallin, MaryMary Fallin Oklahoma January 10, 2011 Incumbent Republican First (and only to date) woman Governor of Oklahoma.
Official Photo of SC Governor Nikki Haley.jpg Haley, NikkiNikki Haley South Carolina January 12, 2011 Incumbent Republican First (and only to date) woman Governor of South Carolina.
First woman Indian American (and Asian American) governor.
Gina Raimondo.png Raimondo, GinaGina Raimondo Rhode Island January 6, 2015 Incumbent Democratic First (and only to date) woman Governor of Rhode Island.
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, cropped.jpg Brown, KateKate Brown Oregon February 18, 2015 Incumbent Democratic Elevated from Secretary of State when John Kitzhaber resigned.
Second woman Governor of Oregon.
First openly bisexual governor.
Later elected in her own right.

Former[edit]

Picture Name State Term start Term end Party Notes Departure Ref
Nellie Tayloe Ross.jpg 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.
Lost reelection [10]
Miriam A. Ferguson.jpg 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.
Retired [11]
January 17, 1933 January 15, 1935 Retired
Lurleen wallace.jpg Wallace, LurleenLurleen Wallace Alabama January 16, 1967 May 7, 1968 Democratic Wife of Governor George Wallace.
First (and only to date) woman Governor of Alabama.
First woman governor elected from the Deep South.
First (and only to date) woman governor to die in office.
Died in office
Ella Grasso.jpg 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 be elected to two consecutive terms.
First woman governor to resign, due to terminal ovarian cancer.
Resigned [12]
Dixy Lee Ray.jpg Ray, Dixy LeeDixy Lee Ray Washington January 12, 1977 January 14, 1981 Democratic First woman Governor of Washington. Lost renomination [13]
No image.svg Roy, Vesta M.Vesta M. Roy New Hampshire December 29, 1982 January 6, 1983 Republican First woman Acting Governor of New Hampshire.
Never sworn in.
Term ended [14]
Martha Layne Collins, governor of Kentucky, Nov 8, 1986.jpg Collins, MarthaMartha Collins Kentucky December 13, 1983 December 8, 1987 Democratic First (and only to date) woman Governor of Kentucky. Retired
Mmk.jpg Kunin, MadeleineMadeleine Kunin Vermont January 10, 1985 January 10, 1991 Democratic First woman Jewish governor.
First (and only to date) woman Governor of Vermont.
Retired
Kay A. Orr.jpg 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.
Lost reelection
Rose Mofford.jpg 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. Was Acting Governor from February 18 to April 4, 1988 during Mecham's impeachment trial.
Retired
No image.svg 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.
Retired
Governor Barbara Roberts.jpg Roberts, BarbaraBarbara Roberts Oregon January 14, 1991 January 9, 1995 Democratic First woman Governor of Oregon. Retired
Ann Richards.jpg Richards, AnnAnn Richards Texas January 15, 1991 January 17, 1995 Democratic Second woman Governor of Texas. Lost reelection
WhitmanChristineTodd.jpg 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.
Resigned
Jeanne Shaheen, official Senate photo portrait, 2009.jpg Shaheen, JeanneJeanne Shaheen New Hampshire January 9, 1997 January 9, 2003 Democratic First woman elected Governor of New Hampshire. Retired
Jane Dee Hull 2001 cropped.jpg Hull, Jane DeeJane Dee Hull Arizona September 5, 1997 January 6, 2003 Republican First Republican woman Governor of Arizona.
First woman to be elected Governor in Arizona.
Elevated from Secretary of State when Fife Symington resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
Term limited
No image.svg 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.
Term ended
Judy Martz 2003.jpg Martz, JudyJudy Martz Montana January 1, 2001 January 3, 2005 Republican First (and only to date) woman Governor of Montana. Retired
Ruth Ann Minner.jpg Minner, Ruth AnnRuth Ann Minner Delaware January 3, 2001 January 20, 2009 Democratic First (and only to date) woman Governor of Delaware. Term limited
Jane Swift 2001.jpeg 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.[15]
Retired
Linda Lingle in March 2010.jpg Lingle, LindaLinda Lingle Hawaii December 2, 2002 December 6, 2010 Republican First (and only to date) woman Governor of Hawaii. Term limited
Jennifer Granholm.jpg Granholm, JenniferJennifer Granholm Michigan January 1, 2003 January 1, 2011 Democratic First (and only to date) woman Governor of Michigan. Term limited
Janet Napolitano official portrait.jpg Napolitano, JanetJanet Napolitano Arizona January 6, 2003 January 21, 2009 Democratic First woman to be elected to two terms as Governor of Arizona.
Third woman governor overall.
Resigned to become Secretary of Homeland Security.
First woman to immediately succeed another woman as governor.
Resigned
Kathleen Sebelius official portrait.jpg Sebelius, KathleenKathleen Sebelius Kansas January 13, 2003 April 28, 2009 Democratic Second woman Governor of Kansas.
Resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Resigned
Olene Walker.JPG 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
KBlancoChalmetteIce.jpg Blanco, KathleenKathleen Blanco Louisiana January 12, 2004 January 14, 2008 Democratic First (and only to date) woman Governor of Louisiana.
First woman governor to be elected in the Deep South without having been the wife or widow of a previous governor.
Retired
FEMA - 29383 - Photograph by Debra Young taken on 04-19-2007 in Connecticut.jpg Rell, JodiJodi Rell Connecticut July 1, 2004 January 5, 2011 Republican Second woman Governor of Connecticut.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when John G. Rowland resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
Retired
ChristineGregoireOfficial.jpg Gregoire, ChristineChristine Gregoire Washington January 12, 2005 January 16, 2013 Democratic Second woman Governor of Washington. Retired
Sarah Palin by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg 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.
Resigned
Beverly Perdue official photo.jpg Perdue, BevBev Perdue North Carolina January 10, 2009 January 5, 2013 Democratic First woman (and only to date) Governor of North Carolina. Retired
Jan Brewer by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg Brewer, JanJan Brewer Arizona January 21, 2009 January 5, 2015 Republican Elevated from Secretary of State when Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security.
Third consecutive woman Governor of Arizona, and the fourth overall, a national record.
Later elected in her own right.
Term limited
Maggie Hassan inaugural address.jpg Hassan, MaggieMaggie Hassan New Hampshire January 3, 2013 January 2, 2017 Democratic Second woman elected Governor of New Hampshire.
Resigned to become U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.
Resigned

Territories and the District of Columbia[edit]

Incumbent[edit]

Picture Name Jurisdiction Term start Term end Party Notes
Muriel Bowser 2 cropped.jpg Bowser, MurielMuriel Bowser District of Columbia January 2, 2015 Incumbent Democratic Second woman and African-American woman Mayor of the District of Columbia.

Former[edit]

Picture Name Jurisdiction Term start Term end Party Notes Departure
Sharon Pratt Kelly.jpg 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.
Lost renomination
Puerto Rican Governor Sila Calderon at the Pentagon, Feb 27, 2001.jpg Calderón, SilaSila Calderón Puerto Rico January 2, 2001 January 2, 2005 Popular Democratic/
Democratic
First woman Governor of Puerto Rico. Retired

Timeline of female U.S. Governors[edit]

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

See also[edit]

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. ^ http://www.nellietayloeross.com/Virginia%20Scharff%20Article.pdf
  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. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  9. ^ [1]
  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. ^ "Vesta Roy, 76, New Hampshire Ex-Governor". The New York Times. Associated Press. February 22, 2002. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Swift's Unusual Ride to the Governor's Office". Boston Globe. April 8, 2001. Retrieved October 3, 2008. 

External links[edit]