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Governor lady

Book of the week

Today, 92 years ago Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first female governor in the history of the United States.


Governor Lady

There are a few books that are so fascinating, so well-written, and so enjoyable to read that one cannot put them down. Governor Lady is one. While painting both a sympathetic and realistic portrait of its subject, the book casts a much wider compass in conveying the context in which Nellie Tayloe Ross lived and worked – a history whose legacy we have inherited and need to understand.

Governor Lady is the fascinating story of one of the most famous political women in America. Nellie Tayloe Ross was born and reared near St Joseph, Missouri. In 1892, she moved with her family to Omaha, Nebraska, where she trained to become a teacher. She taught kindergarten in Omaha for four years before moving, in 1902, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, with her new husband, lawyer William B Ross.

In 1922, he was elected governor of that state. When Ross died in 1924, Nellie was asked to complete her husband’s term as governor. She reluctantly accepted, and that year Nellie was elected governor of Wyoming, making her the first female state governor. Following her defeat for reelection in 1925, Nellie embarked on a career of writing and speechmaking on the national Chautauqua circuit.

In 1928, she was appointed vice chairman of the Democratic National Party. She was drafted to make one of Al Smith’s nominating speeches at the national convention that same year, and she even received thirty-one votes for the position of vice president. For the next four years, she directed the DNC Women’s Division, and she helped to direct the campaign for the women’s vote in both 1928 and 1932. Nellie campaigned for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932; in 1933, Roosevelt tapped her to become the first woman appointed as director of the US Mint.

Renominated to the post three times by Roosevelt and Truman, Nellie held her position until 1953, when she retired at age 76. Thereafter, she traveled widely through her late 90s. She died in 1977 at the age of 101, having witnessed and participated in the entire second American century. Nellie’s story will be of great interest to anyone curious about women’s history and biography.