Women’s History Month: Gov. Ella T. Grasso

Governor Ella T. Grasso at her inauguration. She is surrounded by State Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles S. House, Lt. Governor Robert K. Killian, Speaker of the House James J. Kennelly, and Secretary of the State Gloria Schaffer.

In 1974, Ella Tambussi Grasso was the first woman elected Governor of the State of Connecticut. She was also the first woman Governor in the United States to hold the office without following her husband to the position.

Ella Tambussi was born May 10, 1919 to Giacomo and Maria Olivia Grasso of Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Both Giacomo and Maria had immigrated from Italy. Neither had had much formal schooling, and Maria was devoted to her daughter’s education. After attending a Catholic school, Ella entered the Chaffee School as a member of the Class of 1936. Following graduation, she continued her education at Mount Holyoke College, earning both a Bachelor’s degree (1940) and a Master’s (1942).

Ella married Thomas A. Grasso in 1942. She began working for the State of Connecticut, where she stayed until 1946, when she chose to stay home with her children, James and Susane.

Ella’s political career began in 1952 when she was elected as a State Representative from Windsor Locks. She served as Secretary of the State from 1958 to 1970. For the next four years she represented the former sixth Congressional District. In 1974, Ella won her first term as Governor. Four years later, she was re-elected, though had to step down for health reasons in December 1980. Governor Ella T. Grasso died on February 7, 1981.

Among the materials about Ella Grasso held by the Hartford History Center are Ella: A Biography by Susan Bysiewicz, an article in the Hog River Journal (Vol. 2, No. 4), and Ella Tambussi Grasso: From Daughter of Emigrants to First Woman Governor of an American State, a biography written in Italian and later translated to English. We also have a number of images, and clippings from local newspapers.

Please visit and take a look!