Born in Bell County, Texas, MIRIAM A. (“MA”) FERGUSON attended Salado College and Baylor Female College. When her husband, who had resigned the governorship in 1917 under threat of impeachment, was unable to get his name on the ballot for the governor’s race of 1924, “Ma” Ferguson entered and won the race, becoming the first woman to be elected to the office of governor and the second to be sworn in. [See Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming, who was the first woman to be sworn in as governor after the death of her husband.] The most significant accomplishment during “Ma” Ferguson’s first term in office was the enactment of legislation-aimed at the Ku Klux Klan-prohibiting the wearing of masks in public. During her administration, the State Highway Commission-whose members she had appointed-was subject to a grand jury investigation for maladministration in the award of large contracts to favored firms, and the Commission’s members were forced to resign. Ferguson was defeated in the Democratic primary of 1926, after which she sought to clear her husband’s name of the charges that he had misused public funds while governor. When her husband failed once more to secure a place on the ballot in 1930, she ran again but was defeated in the primary. Then in 1932 during the Great Depression a resurgence of her popularity led to her successful campaign to retake the office of governor. In 1940 she sought a third term but was defeated. Following her husband’s death in 1944, she retired to private life in Austin. She died of a heart attack and was buried next to her husband in the State Cemetery in Austin.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. A. New York: James T. White & Company.
Husband of Texas Governor James Edward Ferguson