Nellie Tayloe Ross: First Female U.S. Governor

Black and white photograph of Nellie Tayloe Ross in 1922, wearing a lace dress with a floral pattern and a fur stole draped over the chair.
Nellie Tayloe Ross, 1922

Nellie Tayloe Ross became the First Lady of Wyoming when her husband was elected Governor in 1922. Two years later, he passed away while in office. Wyoming held a special election for a new governor as a result, for which the Democratic Party needed to select a candidate.

Nellie had held no elected political positions in her career. She had worked as a teacher, then became a full-time mom and then balanced being a mother with the requirements of being a First Lady. But people knew her. As Nellie would say, the people trusted her. And so, the Democratic party nominated Nellie to run for Governor.

There were good reasons for Nellie to decline. She was distraught from her husband’s passing. She needed to focus on financial stability for her family. Wyoming was a Republican state. And no woman had ever been Governor. But Nellie felt she could do a great job if elected. So, she accepted the nomination even though she chose not to campaign. “My candidacy is in the hands of my friends,” Nellie said.

Nellie won the election, becoming the first female Governor in the U.S. when she began the job on January 5, 1925. She would serve in this role for one term, losing her bid for re-election. A few years after her work as Governor, Nellie became the Director of the U.S. Mint in 1933, another first for women. She worked in this role for about twenty years.

Nellie passed away in 1977 at the age of 101.


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  • Larson, T. A. “Woman Suffrage in Wyoming.” The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, vol. 56, no. 2, 1965, pp. 57–66. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Jan. 2024.