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.
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 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.
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. She was preceded in office by her late husband, William B. Ross. Wyoming was the first state to provide women's suffrage 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. 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 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
|Nellie Tayloe Ross||Wyoming||1925||1927||Democratic||Widow of Governor William B. Ross (1923–1924). First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Wyoming. Defeated for reelection.|
|Miriam A. Ferguson||Texas||1925
|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 to date) woman to serve as Governor of Alabama. First (and only to date) female Governor to die in office. Died in Office|
|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||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||Kentucky||1983||1987||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Kentucky. Retired|
|Madeleine M. Kunin||Vermont||1985||1991||Democratic||First female Jewish Governor of any state. First (and only to date) 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 to date) woman to serve as Governor of Nebraska. Defeated for reelection.|
|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||Texas||1991||1995||Democratic||Second female Governor of Texas. Defeated|
|Barbara Roberts||Oregon||1991||1995||Democratic||First woman to serve and to be elected as Governor of Oregon. Retired|
|Christine Todd Whitman||New Jersey||1994||2001||Republican||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of New Jersey. First Republican woman to defeat an incumbent Governor in a general election. Retired|
|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||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 to date) 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||Massachusetts||2001||2003||Republican||Acting Governor. At age 36, youngest female governor in US history. First Governor to give birth while in office (to twins). Retired|
|Judy Martz||Montana||2001||2005||Republican||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Montana. Retired|
|Ruth Ann Minner||Delaware||2001||2009||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Delaware. Retired|
|Linda Lingle||Hawaii||2002||2010||Republican||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Hawaii. Retired|
|Olene Smith Walker||Utah||2003||2005||Republican||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Utah. Lost renomination|
|Jennifer Granholm||Michigan||2003||2011||Democratic||First (and only to date) 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||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||Kansas||2003||2009||Democratic||Resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama Administration.|
|Kathleen Blanco||Louisiana||2004||2008||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Louisiana. Retired|
|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|
|Christine Gregoire||Washington||2005||2013||Democratic||Prior to her election to the Governorship, she was Washington's first female attorney general.|
|Sarah Palin||Alaska||2006||2009||Republican||First (and only to date) 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||North Carolina||2009||2013||Democratic||First woman (and only to date) to serve as Governor of North Carolina. Retired|
|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|
|Susana Martinez||New Mexico||2011||Present||Republican||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of New Mexico. First female Hispanic American Governor outside Puerto Rico.|
|Mary Fallin||Oklahoma||2011||Present||Republican||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Oklahoma. Prior to her election to the governorship, she was Oklahoma's first female Lieutenant Governor.|
|Nikki Haley||South Carolina||2011||Present||Republican||First (and only to date) 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||New Hampshire||2013||Present||Democratic||Second woman elected to serve as Governor of New Hampshire.|
|Gina Raimondo||Rhode Island||2015||Present||Democratic||First (and only to date) woman to serve as Governor of Rhode Island.|
|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
|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.|
|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||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
- 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 Magazine. July 26, 1926. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
- Albuquerque Journal, October 24, 2010, reporting on an article from Albuquerque Morning Journal, June 21, 1924.
- "Today in History". The Library of Congress. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
- "Governors of Texas, 1846–present". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
- "Ella Grasso: First Woman Elected State Governor". Essortment. 16 May 1986. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- "Swift’s Unusual Ride to the Governor’s Office". Boston Globe. April 8, 2001. Retrieved 2008-10-03.