List of female governors in the United States

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Map of current governors by gender
Number of female governors by state/territory:
  •   1
  •   2
  •   3
  •   4 or more

As of January 2019, forty-four women have served or are serving as the governor of a U.S. state (and two acting governors due to vacancies), two women have served or are serving as the governor of an unincorporated U.S. territory. Two women have served or are serving as mayors of the District of Columbia. Currently, nine 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 secretary, in charge for the weekend.[1] It was another three and a half years before women were 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 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 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, Arizona, Alabama, and New Mexico are the only four states to have elected female governors from both major parties. New Hampshire has also 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.

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. This ties a record previously met on two different occasions: 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. Additionally, Lou Leon Guerrero has served as the governor of Guam since January 2019.

As of 2019, a total of 20 states have never had a female 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 of these states (Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah) have never even seen a major party nominate a female candidate in a gubernatorial election, although nine consecutive female lieutenant governors have served in Minnesota, from 1983 to the present day.[9]

There have only been three ethnic minority female governors of states: 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; Grisham is a Democrat. All four territorial female governors have been ethnic minority: Sharon Pratt and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. (both African American), Sila María Calderón of Puerto Rico (Hispanic), and Lou Leon Guerrero of Guam (Pacific Islander), all Democratic.

List of female state governors and acting governors[edit]

Picture 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 to date, only female Governor of Wyoming.
First woman elected in a special election.
Lost reelection [10]
Miriam A. Ferguson.jpg Miriam A. Ferguson
(1875–1961)
Texas Texas January 20, 1925 January 17, 1927 Democratic Wife of Governor James E. Ferguson.
First female 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 female Governor of Alabama.
First, and to date, only female governor to die in office.
Died in office
Ella Grasso.jpg Ella T. Grasso
(1919–1981)
Connecticut Connecticut January 8, 1975 December 31, 1980 Democratic First female governor not a wife or widow of a previous governor.
First female Governor of Connecticut
First female governor to resign, 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 female Governor of Washington. Lost renomination [13]
No image.svg Vesta M. Roy
(1925–2002)
New Hampshire New Hampshire December 29, 1982 January 6, 1983 Republican First female Acting Governor of New Hampshire.
Term ended [14]
Martha Layne Collins, governor of Kentucky, Nov 8, 1986.jpg Martha Collins
(born 1936)
Kentucky Kentucky December 13, 1983 December 8, 1987 Democratic First and to date, only female Governor of Kentucky. Retired [15]
Madeleine kunin 20041011 (cropped).jpg Madeleine Kunin
(born 1933)
Vermont Vermont January 10, 1985 January 10, 1991 Democratic First, and to date, only female Governor of Vermont.
First foreign-born female governor of any state.
Retired [16]
Kay Orr 2017.jpg Kay A. Orr
(born 1939)
Nebraska 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 to date, only female Governor of Nebraska.
Lost reelection [17]
Rose Mofford 2012.jpg Rose Mofford
(1922–2016)
Arizona Arizona April 4, 1988 March 6, 1991 Democratic First female Governor of Arizona.
Elevated from Secretary of State when Evan Mecham was impeached and convicted.
Retired [18]
No image.svg Joan Finney
(1925–2001)
Kansas Kansas January 14, 1991 January 9, 1995 Democratic First female Governor of Kansas.
First woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
Retired [19]
Governor Barbara Roberts.jpg Barbara Roberts
(born 1936)
Oregon Oregon January 14, 1991 January 9, 1995 Democratic First woman elected Governor of Oregon. Retired
Ann Richards.jpg Ann Richards
(1933–2006)
Texas Texas January 15, 1991 January 17, 1995 Democratic Lost reelection [20]
WhitmanChristineTodd.jpg Christine Todd Whitman
(born 1946)
New Jersey New Jersey January 18, 1994 January 31, 2001 Republican First, and to date, only woman elected Governor of New Jersey. [a]
First Republican woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
Resigned to become Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
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. Retired
Jane Dee Hull 2001 cropped.jpg Jane Dee Hull
(born 1935)
Arizona Arizona September 5, 1997 January 6, 2003 Republican Elevated from Secretary of State when Fife Symington resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
Term limited
No image.svg Nancy Hollister
(born 1949)
Ohio Ohio December 31, 1998 January 11, 1999 Republican First, and to date, only female Governor of Ohio.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when George Voinovich became U.S. Senator.
Term ended
Judy Martz 2003.jpg Judy Martz
(1943–2017)
Montana Montana January 1, 2001 January 3, 2005 Republican First, and to date, only female Governor of Montana. Retired
Ruth Ann Minner.jpg Ruth Ann Minner
(born 1935)
Delaware Delaware January 3, 2001 January 20, 2009 Democratic First, and to date, only female Governor of Delaware. Term limited
Jane Swift 2001.jpeg Jane Swift
(born 1965)
Massachusetts Massachusetts April 10, 2001 January 2, 2003 Republican First female Governor of Massachusetts.
First governor to give birth while in office (to twins).
Youngest female governor to date at age 36.[22]
Retired
Linda Lingle in March 2010.jpg Linda Lingle
(born 1953)
Hawaii Hawaii December 2, 2002 December 6, 2010 Republican First, and to date, only female Governor of Hawaii. Term limited
Jennifer Granholm (cropped).jpg Jennifer Granholm
(born 1959)
Michigan Michigan January 1, 2003 January 1, 2011 Democratic First female 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 as Governor of state Resigned to become 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 Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Olene Walker.JPG Olene Walker
(1930–2015)
Utah Utah November 5, 2003 January 3, 2005 Republican First, and to date, only female 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 Kathleen Blanco
(born 1942)
Louisiana Louisiana January 12, 2004 January 14, 2008 Democratic First, and to date, only female 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 when John G. Rowland resigned.
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.jpg Sarah Palin
(born 1964)
Alaska Alaska December 4, 2006 July 26, 2009 Republican First, and to date, only female Governor of Alaska (also its youngest governor).
First female governor to appear on a major party presidential ticket, as the 2008 Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States.
Resigned
Beverly Perdue official photo.jpg Bev Perdue
(born 1947)
North Carolina North Carolina January 10, 2009 January 5, 2013 Democratic First, and to date, only female 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 when Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security.
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 female Governor of New Mexico.
First Hispanic-American female Governor.
Term-limited
Governor Mary Fallin May 2015.jpg Mary Fallin
(born 1954)
Oklahoma Oklahoma January 10, 2011 January 14, 2019 Republican First, and to date, only female 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 to date, only female Governor of South Carolina.
First Asian-American female governor.
Resigned to become United States 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 Resigned to become U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.
Rhode island governor visits NAVSTA Newport (cropped).jpg Gina Raimondo
(born 1971)
Rhode Island Rhode Island January 6, 2015 Incumbent Democratic First, and to date, only female Governor of Rhode Island. Serving [23]
Kate Brown in 2017.jpg Kate Brown
(born 1960)
Oregon Oregon February 18, 2015 Incumbent Democratic First, and to date, only bisexual governor and first openly LGBT elected governor.
Elevated from Secretary of State when John Kitzhaber resigned.
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 when Robert Bentley resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
Serving [24]
Kim Reynolds by Gage Skidmore (cropped).jpg Kim Reynolds
(born 1959)
Iowa Iowa May 24, 2017 Incumbent Republican Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when Terry Branstad became Ambassador to China.
First, and to date, only female Governor of Iowa.
Later elected in her own right.
Serving [25]
Gretchen Whitmer Portrait.jpg Gretchen Whitmer
(born 1971)
Michigan Michigan January 1, 2019 Incumbent Democratic Serving
Michelle Lujan Grisham official photo.jpg Michelle Lujan Grisham
(born 1959)
New Mexico New Mexico January 1, 2019 Incumbent Democratic Following Arizona, New Mexico became the second state where a woman succeeded another woman as the state's Governor Serving
Janet Mills in 2019.jpg Janet Mills
(born 1947)
Maine Maine January 2, 2019 Incumbent Democratic First, and to date, only female Governor of Maine. Serving
Kristi L. Noem 113th Congress.jpg Kristi Noem
(born 1971)
South Dakota South Dakota January 5, 2019 Incumbent Republican First, and to date, only female Governor of South Dakota. Serving
Laura Kelly1 (cropped).png Laura Kelly
(born 1950)
Kansas Kansas January 14, 2019 Incumbent Democratic Serving

Territories and the District of Columbia[edit]

Picture 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 female mayor of a major city.
First female 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 female Governor of Puerto Rico. 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 to date, only female Governor of Guam. Serving

Timeline of female U.S. Governors[edit]

Laura 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

Pregnancies[edit]

There have been two female governors who were pregnant and gave birth during their tenure.

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 elected governor to give birth while in office. Gave birth to twin girls one month into her term of office[26]
Sarah Palin Alaska April 18, 2008 44 Gave birth to son, Trig while in office. [27]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ As lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno served as Acting Governor of New Jersey when Chris Christie was out of the state.[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. ^ http://www.nellietayloeross.com/Virginia%20Scharff%20Article.pdf[permanent dead link]
  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. ^ "Vesta Roy, 76, New Hampshire Ex-Governor". The New York Times. Associated Press. February 22, 2002. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  15. ^ Crawford, Allison (March 29, 2016). "Former Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins Partners with Baptist Health Paducah". Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  16. ^ "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.
  17. ^ Hickey, Donald R.; Wunder, Susan A.; Wunder, John R. (January 1, 2007). Nebraska Moments. U of Nebraska Press. p. 340. ISBN 080321572X.
  18. ^ Bland, Karina; Harris, Craig (September 16, 2016). "Rose Mofford, first woman to serve as Arizona governor, has died". azcentral. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Ratcliffe, R.G.; Kilday, Ann Marie (September 13, 2006). "Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards dies at 73". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  21. ^ The Associated Press (February 21, 2017). "Lieutenant governor gets resignation letter – from husband". ABC News. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  22. ^ "Swift's Unusual Ride to the Governor's Office". Boston Globe. April 8, 2001. Retrieved October 3, 2008.
  23. ^ Herbst-Bayliss, Sva (November 4, 2014). "Democrat Gina Raimondo becomes Rhode Island's first female governor". Reuters. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  24. ^ NBC, AP,. "New Information: Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey sworn in as Alabama's 54th governor". Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  25. ^ Noble, Jason (May 24, 2017). "Kim Reynolds becomes Iowa's first female governor". Des Moines Register. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  26. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/05/15/governor.birth/
  27. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20100920195152/http://www.adn.com/2008/04/21/382560/palin-confirms-baby-has-down-syndrome.html

External links[edit]