Women Governors

What Women Have Headed State Governments in the United States?

Anne Richards
Anne Richards. (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 - 1927Replaced late husband, winning special election
  2. Miriam "Ma" Ferguson
    • Texas, Democrat, 1925 - 1927, 1933 - 1935Surrogate for her husband, who was prohibited by law from succeeding himself
  3. Lurleen Wallace
    • Alabama, Democrat, 1967 - 1968Surrogate for her husband, who was prohibited by law from succeeding himself
  4. Ella Grasso
    • Connecticut, Democrat, 1975 - 1980First woman governor who did not succeed her husband; resigned for health reasons
  5. Dixy Lee Ray
    • Washington, Democrat, 1977 - 1981Defeated in the primary when she was running for a second term
  6. Vesta Roy
    • New Hampshire, Republican, 1982 - 1983Served seven days after death of incumbent
  7. Martha Layne Collins
    • Kentucky, Democrat, 1984 - 1987Chairperson of the 1984 Democratic National Convention
  8. Madeleine Kunin
    • Vermont, Democrat, 1985 - 1991Later Ambassador to Switzerland
  9. Kay Orr
    • Nebraska, Republican, 1987 - 1991First Republican woman elected governor; first woman governor elected by defeating another woman
  10. Rose Mofford
    • Arizona, Democrat, 1988 - 1991Succeeded an incumbent who was impeached and then convicted
  11. Joan Finney
    • Kansas, Democrat, 1991 - 1995First woman governor who won election against an incumbent
  12. Ann Richards
  13. Barbara Roberts
    • Oregon, Democrat, 1991 - 1995Did not seek reelection in 1994
  14. Christine Todd Whitman
    • New Jersey, Republican, 1994 - 2001Resigned for appointment as commissioner, Environmental Protection Agency
  15. Jane Dee Hull
    • Arizona, Republican, 1997 - 2003Succeeded incumbent who resigned; subsequently elected to a full term
  16. Jeanne Shaheen
    • New Hampshire, Democrat, 1997 - 2003Ran unsuccessfully for US Senate in 2002, successfully in 2008
  17. Nancy Hollister
    • Ohio, Republican, 1998 - 1999Served 11 days when predecessor moved to US Senate and before an appointment was made
  18. Jane Swift
    • Massachusetts, Republican, 2001 - 2003Succeeded incumbent who resigned to become an ambassador
  19. Judy Martz
    • Montana, Republican, 2001 - 2005Member of the 1964 US Olympic Speed Skating Team
  20. Sila Maria Calderon
    • Puerto Rico, Popular Democratic Party, 2001 - 2005Former mayor of San Juan
  21. Ruth Ann Minner
    • Delaware, Democrat, 2001 - 2009Served two terms as lieutenant governor
  22. Linda Lingle
    • Hawaii, Republican, 2002 - 2010Former mayor of Maui County
  23. Jennifer M. Granholm
    • Michigan, Democrat, 2003 - 2011Former prosecutor
  24. Janet Napolitano
    • Arizona, Democrat, 2003 - 2009First Arizona woman governor to win reelection; became Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama
  25. Kathleen Sebelius
    • Kansas, Democrat, 2003 - 2009Daughter of an Ohio governor (male)
  26. Oline Walker
    • Utah, Republican, 2003 - 2005Succeeded incumbent who took federal position
  27. Kathleen Blanco
    • Louisiana, Democrat, 2004 - 2008Was governor at the time of Hurricane Katrina
  28. M. Jodi Rell
    • Connecticut, Republican, 2004 - 2011Succeeded incumbent who resigned
  29. Christine Gregoire
    • Washington, Democrat, 2004 - 2013Former director of the Washington Department of Ecology
  30. Sarah Palin
    • Alaska, Republican, 2006 - 2009Former 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
  31. Beverly Perdue
    • North Carolina, Democrat, 2009 - 2013Former lieutenant governor; first woman governor of North Carolina
  32. 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
  33. Susana Martinez
    • New Mexico, Republican, 2011 -First female Hispanic American governor of any of the 50 states, first woman governor of New Mexico
  34. Mary Fallin
    • Oklahoma, Republican, 2011 -Oklahoma's first woman governor
  35. Nikki Haley
    • South Carolina, Republican, 2011 - 2017South Carolina's first woman governor, first female of Indian or Asian descent to serve as governor of any state; resigned after appointment as US Ambassador to the United Nations
  36. Maggie Hassan
    • New Hampshire, Democrat, 2013 - 2017Second woman to hold the office, after Jeanne Shaheen (above); resigned in 2017 when she became the US Senator from her state
  37. Gina Raimondo
    • Rhode Island, Democrat, 2015 - First woman governor of the state of Rhode Island
  38. Kate Brown
    • Oregon, Democrat, 2015 -Was Secretary of State of Oregon, became Governor when John Kitzhaber resigned, then won election in 2016.