Women Governors

What Women Have Headed State Governments in the United States?

Anne Richards 2001
Anne Richards 2001. Joe Raedle / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The first three women governors of any American states replaced their husbands. Many later women governors have been elected in their own right or have succeeded an incumbent. Here's a list of the women governors in the United States, in chronological order:

  1. Nellie Tayloe Ross
    • Wyoming, Democrat, 1925-1927
      replaced late husband, winning special election

  2. Miriam "Ma" Ferguson
    • Texas, Democrat, 1925-1927, 1933-1935
      surrogate for her husband who was prohibited by law from succeeding himself

  1. Lurleen Wallace
    • Alabama, Democrat, 1967-1968
      surrogate for her husband who was prohibited by law from succeeding himself

  2. Ella Grasso
    • Connecticut, Democrat, 1975-1980
      first woman governor who did not succeed her husband; resigned for health reasons

  3. Dixy Lee Ray
    • Washington, Democrat, 1977-1981
      defeated in the primary when she was running for a second term

  4. Vesta Roy
    • New Hampshire, Republican, 1982-1983
      served seven days after death of incumbent

  5. Martha Layne Collins
    • Kentucky, Democrat, 1984-1987
      chairperson of the 1984 Democratic National Convention

  6. Madeleine Kunin
    • Vermont, Democrat, 1985-1991
      later Ambassador to Switzerland

  7. Kay Orr
    • Nebraska, Republican, 1987-1991
      first Republican woman elected governor; first woman governor elected by defeating another woman

  8. Rose Mofford
    • Arizona, Democrat, 1988-1991
      succeeded an incumbent who was impeached and then convicted

  9. Joan Finney
    • Kansas, Democrat, 1991-1995
      first woman governor who won election against an incumbent

  1. Ann Richards
    • Texas, Democrat, 1991-1995
      defeated by George W. Bush

  2. Barbara Roberts
    • Oregon, Democrat, 1991-1995
      did not seek reelection in 1994

  3. Christine Todd Whitman
    • New Jersey, Republican, 1994-2001
      resigned for appointment as commissioner, Environmental Protection Agency

  4. Jane Dee Hull
    • Arizona, Republican, 1997-2003
      succeeded incumbent who resigned; subsequently elected to a full term

  1. Jeanne Shaheen
    • New Hampshire, Democrat, 1997-2003
      ran unsuccessfully for US Senate in 2002, successfully in 2008

  2. Nancy Hollister
    • Ohio, Republican, 1998-1999
      served 11 days when predecessor moved to US Senate and before an appointment was made

  3. Jane Swift
    • Massachusetts, Republican, 2001-2003
      succeeded incumbent who resigned to become an ambassador

  4. Judy Martz
    • Montana, Republican, 2001-2005
      member of the 1964 US Olympic Speed Skating Team

  5. Sila Maria Calderon
    • Puerto Rico, Popular Democratic Party, 2001-2005
      former mayor of San Juan

  6. Ruth Ann Minner
    • Delaware, Democrat, 2001-2009
      served two terms as lieutenant governor

  7. Linda Lingle
    • Hawaii, Republican, 2002-2010
      former mayor of Maui County

  8. Jennifer M. Granholm
    • Michigan, Democrat, 2003-2011
      former prosecutor

  9. Janet Napolitano
    • Arizona, Democrat, 2003-2009
      first Arizona woman governor to win reelection; became Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama

  10. Kathleen Sebelius
    • Kansas, Democrat, 2003-2009
      daughter of an Ohio governor (male)

  11. Oline Walker
    • Utah, Republican, 2003-2005
      succeeded incumbent who took federal position

  12. Kathleen Blanco
    • Louisiana, Democrat, 2004-2008
      was governor at the time of Hurricane Katrina

  13. M. Jodi Rell
    • Connecticut, Republican, 2004-2011
      succeeded incumbent who resigned

  1. Christine Gregoire
    • Washington, Democrat, 2004-2013
      former director of the Washington Department of Ecology

  2. Sarah Palin
    • Alaska, Republican, 2006-2009
      former mayor of Wasilla; first female governor of Alaska; first female governor to run for vice president as the candidate of a major party (2008); resigned in 2009 to pursue other goals

  3. Beverly Perdue
    • North Carolina, Democrat, 2009-2013
      former lieutenant governor; first woman governor of North Carolina

  4. Jan Brewer
    • Arizona, Republican, 2009-
      Arizona Secretary of State when she succeeded Gov. Janet Napolitano, who became Secretary of Homeland Security; third consecutive woman to serve as Arizona governor

  5. Susana Martinez
    • New Mexico, Republican, 2011-
      First female Hispanic American governor of any of the 50 states, first woman governor of New Mexico

  6. Mary Fallin
    • Oklahoma, Republican, 2011-
      Oklahoma's first woman governor

  1. Nikki Haley
    • South Carolina, Republican, 2011-
      South Carolina's first woman governor, first female of Indian or Asian descent to serve as governor of any state
  2. Maggie Hassan
    • New Hampshire, Democrat, 2013 -
      Second woman to hold the office, after Jeanne Shaheen (above)

Women's history biographies, by name:

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