Quick Quiz from Cody: Guess Which State was the First to Elect a Woman Governor?
Well, now that this round of elections is over I can watch television again. Or at least I don’t have to hit the mute button and go clean something in the other room during commercials.
In the last few weeks, I was reminded of the first woman elected governor in this country and how she did not even campaign. Of course, she was elected governor of the great state of Wyoming.
Nellie Tayloe Ross was born November 29, 1876 in St. Joseph, Missouri, the sixth child and first daughter of James and Blair Tayloe.
Nellie spent her first seven years in St. Joseph until the family moved to Miltonvale, Kansas where she graduated from high school. After graduation, the Tayloes moved to Omaha, Nebraska where she taught piano, attended teachers college and spent four years teaching kindergarten.
In 1890 she met William Bradford Ross, an attorney whom she married in 1892. The Rosses moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming shortly after their marriage where William Ross opened a law practice and became involved with the Democratic Party. Ross ran for various offices but was defeated each time.
In 1922, however, Ross ran for governor of Wyoming and won. His term was cut short when he suffered appendicitis and died October 2, 1924 from complications. The Democratic Party then nominated Ross’s widow, Nellie, to be its candidate in a special election to serve the remainder of the term. On November 4, 1924, Nellie Ross won the election in spite of her refusal to campaign for the office.
Nellie Ross became the first elected female governor in the United States when she was sworn in January 25, 1925.
I love Wyoming history, so I did some research and found out other women were governors before Nellie Ross, but they served for short periods under extenuating circumstances. Carolyn B. Shelton, for example, served as governor of Oregon for one weekend in 1909 when the outgoing governor was elected to the Senate and had to leave for Washington, D.C., before his term was over. The incoming governor was sick and could not assume office early. Soledad Chávez Chacón, secretary of state in New Mexico, assumed the governor’s responsibilities for two weeks in 1924 while the state’s governor attended the Democratic Convention in New York. The lieutenant governor had died earlier in the year.
Nellie Ross ran for reelection in 1926 but was defeated after she again refused to campaign. Ross remained active in politics and even received 31 votes on the first ballot of the 1928 Democratic National Convention to be Al Smith’s vice presidential running mate.
After the convention, she served as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and as director of the DNC Women’s Division
In 1933 Ross was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt director of the U.S. Mint. Again, she was the first woman to hold that position. Ross served five full terms until her retirement in 1953.
After she retired, Ross wrote and traveled extensively. She died in Washington, D.C., at the age of 101 and is interred in the family plot in Lakeview Cemetery in Cheyenne.
While I doubt anyone anywhere will refuse to campaign and still get elected to a statewide office, I certainly wish a few would try. At the very least, maybe they need to relax with a long weekend vacation in Wyoming to regain perspective.
Until next week, I am lovin’ life – in a sparkling clean house – in Cody, Wyo.