List of female governors in the United States
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As of January 2020, forty-four women have served or are serving as the governor of a U.S. state (and two acting governors due to vacancies), three women have served or are serving as the governor of an unincorporated U.S. territory. Two women have served or are serving as mayors of the District of Columbia. Currently, nine women are serving as governors of U.S. states, along with the Mayor of the District of Columbia Muriel Bowser, and territorial governors Lou Leon Guerrero of Guam and Wanda Vázquez Garced of Puerto Rico.
The first woman to act as governor was Carolyn B. Shelton, who served as acting governor of Oregon for one weekend – 9 a.m. Saturday, February 27, through 10 a.m. Monday, March 1, 1909. The outgoing governor, George Earle Chamberlain, had been elected to the Senate and had to leave for Washington, D.C., before his term was over, and the incoming governor, Frank W. Benson, had gotten sick and couldn't assume office early. Chamberlain left Shelton, his secretary, in charge for the weekend. It was another three and a half years before women were allowed to vote in Oregon.[a]
The first female acting governor to be entrusted with substantial duties while in office was Soledad Chávez de Chacón, who held the powers and duties of Governor of New Mexico for 2 weeks in 1924 while Governor James F. Hinkle attended the Democratic Convention in New York. Lieutenant Governor Jose A. Baca had died unexpectedly in May, so Chacón, the Secretary of State, filled the position. Chacón said she believed that her 1924 elevation was the first time in the U.S. that a woman had been called on to assume the responsibilities of governor.
The first woman to assume office as governor pursuant to a special election was Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming (widow of late Governor William B. Ross, served January 1923 to October 1924), who was elected on November 4, 1924, and sworn in on January 5, 1925. Wyoming was the first state to provide women's suffrage after New Jersey had abolished it in 1807. Elected on the November 3, 1924 general election, and sworn in on January 20, 1925, was Miriam A. Ferguson of Texas, whose husband, Governor James Edward Ferguson, had previously held the office but been impeached and removed from office in 1917. The first female governor elected without being the wife or widow of a past state governor was Ella T. Grasso of Connecticut, elected in 1974 and sworn in on January 8, 1975.
To date, no woman has ever changed parties during her gubernatorial term, been elected as a third party member or an independent, or, after resigning from the governorship, been appointed to the United States Senate by her successor.
Connecticut, Arizona, Alabama, and New Mexico are the only four states to have elected female governors from both major parties. Arizona was the first state where a woman followed another woman as governor (they were from different parties). Arizona also has had the most female governors with a total of four, and is the first state to have three women in a row serve as governor.
A record nine out of 50 state governorships have been held by women since Kristi Noem was inaugurated as governor of South Dakota on January 5, 2019. This ties a record previously met on two different occasions: first, between December 4, 2006, when Sarah Palin was inaugurated as the first female governor of Alaska, and January 14, 2008, when Kathleen Blanco left office as governor of Louisiana, and second, between January 10, 2009, when Beverly Perdue was inaugurated as governor of North Carolina, and January 20, 2009, when Ruth Ann Minner retired as governor of Delaware. The U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, though not states, have also had female chief executives: Governors Sila María Calderón and Wanda Vázquez Garced, and Mayors Sharon Pratt Kelly and Muriel Bowser, respectively. Additionally, Lou Leon Guerrero has served as the governor of Guam since January 2019.
As of 2019, a total of 20 states have never had a female governor. Those states are: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Six states (Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah) have never even seen a major party nominate a female candidate in a gubernatorial election, although nine consecutive female lieutenant governors have served in Minnesota, from 1983 to the present day.
There have only been three ethnic minority female governors of states: Susana Martinez and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico (both Hispanic) and Nikki Haley of South Carolina (Asian American). Martinez and Haley are both Republican; Lujan Grisham is a Democrat. All five territorial female governors have been ethnic minority: Sharon Pratt and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. (both African American), Sila María Calderón and Wanda Vázquez Garced of Puerto Rico (both Hispanic), and Lou Leon Guerrero of Guam (Pacific Islander), all Democratic.
List of female state governors and acting governorsEdit
|State||Term start||Term end||Party||Notes||Departure||Ref|
|Wyoming||January 5, 1925||January 3, 1927||Democratic||Widow of Governor William B. Ross.
First, and to date, only female Governor of Wyoming.
First woman elected in a special election.
|Miriam A. Ferguson
|Texas||January 20, 1925||January 17, 1927||Democratic||Wife of Governor James E. Ferguson.
First female Governor of Texas.
First woman elected in a general election.
|January 17, 1933||January 15, 1935||Retired|
|Alabama||January 16, 1967||May 7, 1968||Democratic||Wife of Governor George Wallace.
First female Governor of Alabama.
First, and to date, only female governor to die in office.
|Died in office|
|Ella T. Grasso
|Connecticut||January 8, 1975||December 31, 1980||Democratic||First female governor not a wife or widow of a previous governor.
First female Governor of Connecticut
First female governor to resign, due to terminal ovarian cancer.
|Dixy Lee Ray
|Washington||January 12, 1977||January 14, 1981||Democratic||First female Governor of Washington.||Lost renomination|||
|Kentucky||December 13, 1983||December 8, 1987||Democratic||First and to date, only female Governor of Kentucky.||Retired|||
|Vermont||January 10, 1985||January 10, 1991||Democratic||First, and to date, only female Governor of Vermont.
First foreign-born female governor of any state.
|Kay A. Orr
|Nebraska||January 9, 1987||January 9, 1991||Republican||First Republican woman elected governor.
First woman elected governor over another female major party nominee.
First, and to date, only female Governor of Nebraska.
|Arizona||April 4, 1988||March 6, 1991||Democratic||First female Governor of Arizona.
Elevated from Secretary of State when Evan Mecham was impeached and convicted.
|Kansas||January 14, 1991||January 9, 1995||Democratic||First female Governor of Kansas.
First woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
|Oregon||January 14, 1991||January 9, 1995||Democratic||First woman elected Governor of Oregon.||Retired|
|Texas||January 15, 1991||January 17, 1995||Democratic||Lost reelection|||
|Christine Todd Whitman
|New Jersey||January 18, 1994||January 31, 2001||Republican||First, and to date, only woman elected Governor of New Jersey.[b]
First Republican woman to defeat an incumbent governor in a general election.
|Resigned to become Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.|||
|New Hampshire||January 9, 1997||January 9, 2003||Democratic||First woman elected Governor of New Hampshire.[c]||Retired|||
|Jane Dee Hull
|Arizona||September 5, 1997||January 6, 2003||Republican||Elevated from Secretary of State when Fife Symington resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
|Ohio||December 31, 1998||January 11, 1999||Republican||First, and to date, only female Governor of Ohio.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when George Voinovich became U.S. Senator.
|Montana||January 1, 2001||January 3, 2005||Republican||First, and to date, only female Governor of Montana.||Retired|
|Ruth Ann Minner
|Delaware||January 3, 2001||January 20, 2009||Democratic||First, and to date, only female Governor of Delaware.||Term limited|
|Massachusetts||April 10, 2001||January 2, 2003||Republican||First female Governor of Massachusetts.
First governor to give birth while in office (to twins).
Youngest female governor to date at age 36.
|Hawaii||December 2, 2002||December 6, 2010||Republican||First, and to date, only female Governor of Hawaii.||Term limited|
|Michigan||January 1, 2003||January 1, 2011||Democratic||First female Governor of Michigan||Term limited|
|Arizona||January 6, 2003||January 21, 2009||Democratic||First woman to succeed another woman as Governor of state||Resigned to become Secretary of Homeland Security|
|Kansas||January 13, 2003||April 28, 2009||Democratic||Resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.|
|Utah||November 5, 2003||January 3, 2005||Republican||First, and to date, only female Governor of Utah.
Elevated from Lieutenant Governor of Utah when Mike Leavitt became Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
|Lost nomination for full term|
|Louisiana||January 12, 2004||January 14, 2008||Democratic||First, and to date, only female Governor of Louisiana||Retired|
|Connecticut||July 1, 2004||January 5, 2011||Republican||Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when John G. Rowland resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
|Washington||January 12, 2005||January 16, 2013||Democratic||Retired|
|Alaska||December 4, 2006||July 26, 2009||Republican||First, and to date, only female Governor of Alaska (also its youngest governor).
First female governor to appear on a major party presidential ticket, as the 2008 Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States.
|North Carolina||January 10, 2009||January 5, 2013||Democratic||First, and to date, only female Governor of North Carolina.||Retired|
|Arizona||January 21, 2009||January 5, 2015||Republican||Elevated from Secretary of State when Janet Napolitano became Secretary of Homeland Security.
Later elected in her own right.
|New Mexico||January 1, 2011||January 1, 2019||Republican||First female Governor of New Mexico.
First Hispanic-American female Governor.
|Oklahoma||January 10, 2011||January 14, 2019||Republican||First, and to date, only female Governor of Oklahoma.||Term Limited|
|South Carolina||January 12, 2011||January 24, 2017||Republican||First, and to date, only female Governor of South Carolina.
First Asian-American female governor.
|Resigned to become United States Ambassador to the United Nations|
|New Hampshire||January 3, 2013||January 2, 2017||Democratic||Resigned to become U.S. Senator from New Hampshire.|
|Rhode Island||January 6, 2015||Incumbent||Democratic||First female Governor of Rhode Island.||Serving|||
|Oregon||February 18, 2015||Incumbent||Democratic||First bisexual governor and first openly LGBT elected governor.
Elevated from Secretary of State when John Kitzhaber resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
|Alabama||April 10, 2017||Incumbent||Republican||Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when Robert Bentley resigned.
Later elected in her own right.
|Iowa||May 24, 2017||Incumbent||Republican||Elevated from Lieutenant Governor when Terry Branstad became Ambassador to China.
First female Governor of Iowa.
Later elected in her own right.
|Michigan||January 1, 2019||Incumbent||Democratic||Serving|
|Michelle Lujan Grisham
|New Mexico||January 1, 2019||Incumbent||Democratic||Serving|
|Maine||January 2, 2019||Incumbent||Democratic||First female Governor of Maine.||Serving|
|South Dakota||January 5, 2019||Incumbent||Republican||First female Governor of South Dakota.||Serving|
|Kansas||January 14, 2019||Incumbent||Democratic||Serving|
Territories and the District of ColumbiaEdit
|Jurisdiction||Term start||Term end||Party||Notes||Departure|
|District of Columbia||January 2, 1991||January 2, 1995||Democratic||First African American female mayor of a major city.
First female Mayor of the District of Columbia.
|Puerto Rico||January 2, 2001||January 2, 2005||Popular Democratic/
|First female Governor of Puerto Rico.||Retired|
|District of Columbia||January 2, 2015||Incumbent||Democratic||Serving|
|Lou Leon Guerrero
|Guam||January 7, 2019||Incumbent||Democratic||First, and to date, only female Governor of Guam.
First Pacific Islander American female Governor.
|Wanda Vázquez Garced
|Puerto Rico||August 7, 2019||Incumbent||New Progressive/
|Elevated from Secretary of Justice when Pedro Pierluisi was removed quo warranto.||Serving|
Timeline of female U.S. GovernorsEdit
There have been two female governors who were pregnant and gave birth during their tenure.
|Governors who have been pregnant while in office|
|Governor||State||Date of delivery||Mother's age||Notes|
|Jane Swift||Massachusetts||May 14, 2001||36||First sitting governor to give birth while in office. Gave birth to twin girls one month into her term of office|
|Sarah Palin||Alaska||April 18, 2008||44||Gave birth to son, Trig while in office. |
- Chamberlain and Shelton married each other 17 years later.
- As Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno and Sheila Oliver served as Acting Governor of New Jersey when the elected governor was out of state.
- Vesta M. Roy served as Acting Governor of New Hampshire from December 29, 1982 to January 6, 1983.
- Long, James Andrew (1994). Oregon Firsts: Past and Present. North Plains, Ore.: Oregon Firsts Media. p. 57. ISBN 1-882635-00-0.
- Kessler, Lauren (1983). "The Ideas of Woman Suffrage and the Mainstream Press". Oregon Historical Quarterly. 84: 257–76.
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