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Ella T. Grasso

Gov. Ella T. Grasso

  • January 8, 1975 - December 31, 1980
  • Democrat
  • May 10, 1919
  • February 5, 1981
  • Connecticut
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Married Thomas Grasso; two children
  • Resigned
  • Representative


ELLA T. GRASSO was born Ella Rosa Giovanna Oliva Tambussi in Windsor Locks, Connecticut on May 10, 1919.  She received a 1940 and a M.A. in economics and sociology in 1942, both from Mt, Holyoke College. In her junior year she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1942 she married Thomas A. Grasso. During World War II, she served as assistant director of research for the War Manpower Commission of Connecticut. Grasso was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly in 1952 and 1954. She served three terms as Connecticut Secretary of the State from 1959 through 1970. She was also vice chair of the Executive Committee on Human Rights and Opportunities and chair of the Planning Committee of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women.  She also chaired the Bipartisan Commission to Prepare for the Connecticut Constitutional Convention. In 1965, she was elected a delegate to the convention and served as Democratic floor leader.  Grasso chaired the Democratic State Platform Committee from 1956 to 1968, served as a member of the National Platform Committee in 1960, and was co-chair of the Resolutions Committee of the Democratic National Convention in 1964 and 1968. In 1970 and again in 1972 she was elected to the U.S. Congress, where she compiled a strongly liberal voting record. In 1974 Grasso campaigned successfully for the Democratic nomination for governor and in November decisively defeated her Republican opponent. With her inauguration in January 1975 she became the first woman to serve as Governor of Connecticut and the first woman to hold a state governorship solely on her own merits (all previous women governors had been wives of former governors). In September 1978 Grasso fought off a primary challenge by her lieutenant governor and was nominated for a second term. She was reelected by a large majority in November and began a second four-year term, but resigned on New Year’s Eve in 1980 because of illness. She was described as a symbolic rather than doctrinaire feminist leader; she opposed legalized abortion, did not actively support affirmative action, and supported the proposed Equal Rights Amendment but did not campaign for it. She She died in Hartford, Connecticut, on February 5, 1981.Governor Grasso is a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.


Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors' Association, 1979.

Women in American History

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