Nellie Tayloe Ross

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Nellie Tayloe Ross
Nellie Tayloe Ross.jpg
14th Governor of Wyoming
In office
January 5, 1925 – January 3, 1927
Preceded by Frank E. Lucas
Succeeded by Frank Emerson
28th Director of the United States Mint
In office
May 3, 1933 – April 1953
Preceded by Robert J. Grant
Succeeded by William H. Brett
Personal details
Born November 29, 1876
St. Joseph, Missouri[1]
Died December 19, 1977(1977-12-19) (aged 101)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) William Bradford Ross (1902–1924) (his death)
Children Four sons: George Tayloe (1903–91), James Ambrose (1903–28), Alfred Duff (1905–06), William Bradford (1912–97)
Profession Teacher, Politician
Religion Episcopalian

Nellie Tayloe Ross (November 29, 1876 – December 19, 1977) was an American politician, the 14th Governor of Wyoming from 1925 to 1927, and director of the United States Mint from 1933 to 1953. She was the first woman to be elected governor of a U.S. state, and remains the only woman to have served as governor of Wyoming.[2] She was a staunch supporter of Prohibition during the 1920s.

Early years[edit]

Nellie Davis Tayloe was born in St. Joseph, Missouri.[1] She was the sixth child and first daughter of James Wynn Tayloe, a native of Stewart County, Tennessee, and his wife, Elizabeth Blair Green, who owned a plantation on the Missouri River.[3] In 1884, when Nellie Tayloe was seven years of age, her family moved to Miltonvale in Cloud County in northern Kansas. This relocation happened after her father's old family home back in St. Joseph burned, and the sheriff was about to foreclose on the property.[3]

After she graduated from Miltonvale High School in 1892, her family moved to Omaha, Nebraska. During this time she taught private piano lessons, and also attended a teacher-training college for two years. She then taught kindergarten for four years. Nellie was sent on a trip to Europe in 1896 by two of her brothers.[1]

While on a visit to her relatives in Dover, Tennessee, in 1900, she met William Bradford Ross, whom she married on September 11, 1902. William Ross practiced law and planned to live in the American West. He moved to Cheyenne and established a law practice, bringing his wife to join him there. Ross became a leader in the Democratic Party in Wyoming. He ran for office several times unsuccessfully, losing to Republican candidates each time.[citation needed]


In 1922, William Ross was elected governor of Wyoming by appealing to progressive voters in both parties. However, after little more than a year and a half in office, he died on October 2, 1924, from complications from an appendectomy. The Democratic Party then nominated his widow, Nellie Ross, to run for governor in a special election the following month.[4]

Nellie Tayloe Ross refused to campaign, but easily won the race on November 4, 1924. On January 5, 1925, she became the first female governor in the history of the United States.[2] As governor she continued her late husband's policies, which called for tax cuts, government assistance for poor farmers, banking reform, and laws protecting children, women workers, and miners. She urged Wyoming to ratify a pending federal amendment prohibiting child labor. Like her husband, she advocated the strengthening of prohibition laws.[citation needed]

Ross ran for re-election in 1926, but was narrowly defeated. Ross blamed her loss in part on her refusal to campaign for herself and her support for prohibition. Nevertheless, she remained active in the Democratic Party and campaigned for Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election though the two disagreed on prohibition. At the 1928 Democratic National Convention, she received 31 votes from 10 states for vice president on the first ballot. She also gave a speech seconding Smith's nomination. After the convention, she served as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and as director of the DNC Women's Division.[citation needed]

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her as the first female director of the U.S. Mint on May 3, 1933, where she served five full terms until her retirement in 1953, when Republicans under Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon regained the executive branch of government.[citation needed]. She is known for establishing the Franklin Half Dollar and starting the making of proof coins for public sale.[citation needed]

Retirement and death[edit]

After her retirement, Ross contributed articles to various women's magazines and traveled extensively. She made her last trip to Wyoming in 1972 at the age of ninety-six. Five years later, she died in Washington, D.C., at the age of 101; at the time of her death, she was the oldest ex-governor in the United States. She is interred in the family plot in Lakeview Cemetery in Cheyenne.[5]


  1. ^ a b c "Nellie Tayloe Ross Biography" (PDF). Made In Wyoming. June 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Today in History". The Library of Congress. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Scheer, p. 2
  4. ^ "Wyoming Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross". Former Governors' Bios. National Governor's Association. Retrieved January 20, 2014. 
  5. ^ Wyoming Tribune-Eagle Online


  • Scheer, Teva (2005). Governor Lady: The Life and Times of Nellie Tayloe Ross. University of Missouri Press. p. 287. ISBN 0-8262-1626-9. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Frank E. Lucas
Governor of Wyoming
Succeeded by
Frank Emerson
Government offices
Preceded by
Robert J. Grant
Director of the United States Mint
May 1933 – April 1953
Succeeded by
William H. Brett
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Percival P. Baxter
Oldest living United States governor
(excludes pre-statehood)

June 12, 1969 – December 19, 1977
Succeeded by
Alf Landon
Preceded by
Percival P. Baxter
Oldest living United States governor
(includes pre-statehood)

June 12, 1969 – December 19, 1977
Succeeded by
George A. Parks
Preceded by
Roswell K. Colcord
Oldest United States governor ever
June 6, 1977 – October 1, 2000
Succeeded by
Jimmie Davis