The first woman to be elected governor of state in U.S. history was Nellie Tayloe Ross. Her husband was elected governor of Wyoming but died in office about a year later from complications after having had his appendix removed. By law, the Secretary of State succeeded him as governor. Nellie decided to run for office in the next election and won. She served for two years.
When Nellie was elected, American woman had been allowed to vote for only four years. Wyoming had been a state for 34 years, since 1890. But the interesting thing about Wyoming is that it came into the Union with all its legal residents, men and women, voting. As Wyoming Territory, women had voted since 1869. And they weren’t about to give it up! The deal was, they came in to the Union as the 44th state with women voting or they didn’t come in at all.
Nellie went on to be the director of the US Mint, appointed by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt. She was the first woman in that position and served 20 years, from 1933 to 1953. To date, there have been five more women who have served as director of the mint, but Wyoming has never again elected a woman governor.
From Maine to Florida to California, 22 of the 50 states have never had a woman as governor. That is until January, 2019, when woman will take the helm in Maine and South Dakota and the number goes down to 20. Surprisingly, the big liberal states like New York and California have not yet elected a woman to lead them. And which states has elected the most female governors? Arizona with four. And they are an equal opportunity electorate with two Republicans and two Democrats.