May 3 marked a special, yet not widely recognized anniversary in Women’s History. On that day in 1933 Nellie Tayloe Ross (one of my favorite SheHeroes in History) took office as the first female and longest serving Director of the US. Mint. But that wasn’t the only things Ross was known for. You would think that being the longest serving Director of the US. Mint would be the kind of thing that could be considered to be one of your greatest accomplishments, but after reading about Nellie Tayloe Ross, it becomes obvious that it was simply the tip of the iceberg.
In 1922 Nellie’s husband, William Bradford Ross was elected governor of Wyoming. When he passed away in 1924 the Democratic Party called for a special election and nominated Nellie (a kindergarten teacher) to replace him as governor. Nellie accepted the nomination but refused to campaign. She went on to easily win the election. On November 4, 1924 she was sworn in as the first female Governor of the United States.
Nellie spent her term as Governor carrying out the policies of her husband. Tax cuts, assistance for poor families & farmers, banking reform and protecting children & women. She ran for reelection and lost in 1926, a loss she would later attributed to her lack of campaigning and strong support of prohibition.
But Nellie’s story didn’t end there, not by a long a shot. She was a Vice-Presidential candidate in 1928. She then served as Vice-Chairman of the Democratic National Party as well as director of the DNC Women’s Division. In 1933 President Roosevelt appointed her as the first female director of the U.S. Mint where she remained until her retirement.
She served as Director of the U.S. Mint through both the Great Depression and World War II, two of the most difficult times in our country’s history. She went on to work tirelessly on behalf of women’s rights until she passed away at 101 years old in 1977.
In 2007 a documentary was made about Nella Tayloe Ross titled, Governor Lady. Her place as the first female governor is truly only one small part of an amazing life spent serving her country and helping make the world a better place for the generations of women who followed her.