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June 11, 2017 / thackersam

In Her Own Right

I’ve figured out what the problem is. I’m down to the last three colors of my Pilot G-2 ten-pack – turquoise, lavender and pink, my least favorites. Thankfully, as I was tidying for what could be the last of the ladies nights for an awfully long time with the last of the ladies, I uncovered the maroon and black pens. Problem solved. I can write again.

My friend Gilda, who’s been living in Connecticut while coming into the city a couple of days a week for work, has found a new job in New Haven on Ella T. Grasso Blvd. Gilda’s a native of the state, but 20 years my junior, so I suspected she didn’t know who Ella Grasso was, even though she said she had heard the name before.

Well I know who she was. I remember. Ella T. Grasso was the 83rd Governor of Connecticut, and the first female Governor in the United States elected in her own right. That “in her own right” thing is important as there had actually been three female governors before her whose husbands had been elected to the office. In 1925, Nellie Ross became the first female governor in the United States in a special election after her husband died and she remains the only female governor of Wyoming. Miriam “Ma” Ferguson was Governor of Texas after her husband was impeached and convicted, and then we had Lurleen Wallace, wife of vocal segregationist and frequent presidential candidate George Wallace as he could not run again due to term limits. She died in office of cancer, and George, who had been instrumental in the addition of the word “consecutive” to the term limit rule, became Alabama’s Governor again not long after. Interestingly, Lurleen’s cancer diagnosis was in 1961, but because her husband and physician made the decision to keep this information about her health from her, as they could actually do back then, she didn’t receive treatment until after a second diagnosis a few years later. Even though her cancer spread, she ran for Governor while secretly going through radiation. Not only was George Wallace an ass, he was a supreme ass, and then some.

There have been 42 female governors of the United States, which also includes the feisty Ann Richards of Texas, Jane Swift, who as acting Governor of Massachusetts was the first governor to give birth while in office (she had twin girls), and the not swift Sarah Palin. Susana Martinez was the first Latina governor and has been the Governor of New Mexico since 2011, the more attractive than her name Muriel Bowser is currently the 2nd female governor of Washington DC, and Puerto Rico has also had a woman governor.

Ella Tambussi Grasso became Governor of Connecticut in 1975. She grew up in Connecticut and was the daughter of hard working Italian immigrants, who encouraged their daughter’s interest in learning though they each had very limited educations themselves. Ella would choose a life in politics and served in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1952, then was elected to serve as Connecticut’s Secretary of State. She was elected to two terms as Governor, but resigned on the last day of 1980 after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died a little more than a month later.

In addition to politics, Grasso had a full life raising her two children with husband Thomas Grasso, who she married in 1942. Ella Grasso died at age 61 from ovarian cancer. President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981, and in 1993 she was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. *

And I remember Ella Grasso from the neighboring state across the Long Island Sound. Women Governors aren’t exactly a dime a dozen these days, but back then, it was a mighty big deal. Thanks Ella.

For those who scoff at feminism, particularly women who do, please remember that it was less than 50 years ago that men could make the decisions for their wives on all sorts of matters, and it is only because women continue to fight for their rights that we have them. [To O: Pure coincidence, my writing of this post and the article in yesterday’s NYTimes by model AND feminist Paulina Porizkova.]

BTW – Gilda and I and our two other friends had a swell get together on Thursday night and came up with new references that only we will understand, to garbage bags and the hard finger (only one is sexual and not the one you might think). We ate pizza, samosa, ice cream and chocolates, and yes, the diet was blown and the end of month goal will be even more difficult to reach. But, it was well worth it.

Holy Moly – I just realized that it has been five years since I quit smoking, well except for that cigar in New Orleans. June 3, 2012.

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