By: Scott RossPublished: November 4, 2022

Nellie Tayloe Ross

On September 22, 1917, Texas Governor James Edward Ferguson Jr. was impeached, having been found guilty of ten of the twenty-one charges against him, including having used $5,000 in state funds to settle a personal debt. Ferguson's punishment included "disbarment from future offices," the New York Times reported. Seven years later, on October 2, 1924, Washington Governor William Ross died suddenly from complications following an appendectomy.

What do these two events have to do with each other? They set in motion the race to see who would be the first woman elected governor of one of the United States of America.

After the Texas Supreme Court rejected Ferguson's petition to run again for governor, he put forward his wife, former first lady of Texas Miriam Amanda "Ma" Ferguson to run in the 1924 democratic primary, promising voters "two governors for the price of one." She was pretty clearly a puppet candidate, as campaign appearances at times consisted of her introducing her husband, who would then speak at length. She won her party's nomination in a run-off, then won easily the general election on November 4, defeating republican George C. Butte, the former dean of the University of Texas law school.

While Ma Ferguson was standing in for her husband, Democratic machine turned to Texas' first lady, Nellie Tayloe Ross, to take up the mantle of nominee, and though she refused to campaign on her own behalf, she managed to be elected governor of Wyoming. Ross would ultimately go on to edge out Ferguson as America's first woman governor due to her having been inaugurated on January 5, 1925, fifteen days before Ferguson.


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