Nellie Tayloe Ross: America’s First Female Governor

On this date in 1925, Nellie Tayloe Ross was sworn in as governor of Wyoming.

Here are some things you may not have known about the first woman to serve as governor in the United States.

Nellie Tayloe was born in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1876. She graduated from high school in Kansas and became a kindergarten teacher for four years. While visiting relatives in Tennessee, Tayloe met William Bradford Ross, a lawyer whom she married in 1902. Soon after, they moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where William became a leader in the state’s Democratic Party.

In 1922, William Ross was elected governor, after running as a progressive. He served less than two years before dying of complications from an appendectomy. Nellie Ross was nominated to run to replace her husband in a special election the following month. She won easily, making history as the first female governor in the United States. She, like her husband, was a strong advocate for the prohibition of alcohol.

That support for prohibition, along with her refusal to campaign for herself, resulted in a narrow defeat in her 1926 reelection attempt. Ross remained active in the Democratic Party and received 31 votes for vice president at the party’s 1928 convention. She then served as vice president of the Democratic National Committee.

In 1933, Ross was appointed director of the U.S. Mint. During her time at the Mint, she oversaw the design and release of the Franklin Half Dollar and the public sale of proof coins. She also oversaw the establishment of the U.S. Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

She served five terms as Mint director and retired in 1953.

In her retirement, Ross wrote for several women’s magazines and traveled the world. When she died in 1977 at the age of 101, she was the oldest ex-governor in U.S. History.

Our question: Who holds the title of longest-lived former U.S. governor?

Today is unofficially National Bird Day and National Whipped Cream Day.

It’s the birthday of actor Robert Duvall, who is 86; actress Diane Keaton, who is 71; and actor Bradley Cooper, who is 42.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1962, the top song in the U.S. was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens.

The No. 1 movie was “El Cid,” while the novel “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Now for our weekly question: What scientist and inventor was Thomas Edison’s main rival in the War of Currents?

Submit your answer at and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at We’ll reveal the correct answer on tomorrow’s episode.


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