Nellie Tayloe Ross
Nellie Tayloe Ross was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

, the 14th Governor of Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

 from 1925 to 1927, and director of the United States Mint
United States Mint
The United States Mint primarily produces circulating coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce. The Mint was created by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1792, and placed within the Department of State...

 from 1933-1953. She was the first woman to serve as governor of a U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

. To date, she remains the only woman to have served as governor of Wyoming. She was a staunch supporter of prohibition
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

 during the 1920s.

Early years

Nellie Davis Tayloe was born near Amazonia
Amazonia, Missouri
Amazonia is a village in Lincoln Township, Andrew County, Missouri, United States. The population was 277 at the 2000 census. It is part of the St. Joseph, MO–KS Metropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:Amazonia is located at...

, in Andrew County
Andrew County, Missouri
-External links:* from University of Missouri Division of Special Collections, Archives, and Rare Books...

, Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

 (now part of the St. Joseph Metropolitan Statistical Area) to James Wynn Tayloe, a native of Stewart County, Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, and his wife, Elizabeth Blair Green, who owned a plantation
A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

 on the Missouri River
Missouri River
The Missouri River flows through the central United States, and is a tributary of the Mississippi River. It is the longest river in North America and drains the third largest area, though only the thirteenth largest by discharge. The Missouri's watershed encompasses most of the American Great...

. In 1884, when Nellie Ross was seven years of age, her family moved to Miltonvale
Miltonvale, Kansas
Miltonvale is a city in Cloud County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 539.-History:Miltonvale was founded on December 1, 1881.From 1909 to 1972, it was the home of Miltonvale Wesleyan College....

 in Cloud County
Cloud County, Kansas
Cloud County is a county located in North Central Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the county population was 9,533. Its county seat and most populous city is Concordia.-19th century:...

 in northern Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

. The relocation happened after their Andrew County home burned, and the sheriff
A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country....

 was about to foreclose
Foreclosure is the legal process by which a mortgage lender , or other lien holder, obtains a termination of a mortgage borrower 's equitable right of redemption, either by court order or by operation of law...

 on the property.

After she graduated from Miltonville High School in 1892, her family moved to Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska, United States, and is the county seat of Douglas County. It is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 20 miles north of the mouth of the Platte River...

, Nebraska
Nebraska is a state on the Great Plains of the Midwestern United States. The state's capital is Lincoln and its largest city is Omaha, on the Missouri River....

. During this time she taught private piano lessons, and also attended a teacher-training college
A college is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations...

 for two years. She then taught kindergarten
A kindergarten is a preschool educational institution for children. The term was created by Friedrich Fröbel for the play and activity institute that he created in 1837 in Bad Blankenburg as a social experience for children for their transition from home to school...

 for four years. Nellie was sent on a trip to Europe in 1896 by two of her brothers.

In 1900, while on a visit to her relatives in Dover
Dover, Tennessee
Dover is a city in Stewart County, Tennessee, United States, westnorthwest of Nashville on the Cumberland River. An old national cemetery is in Dover. The population was 1,442 at the 2000 census...

, Stewart County, Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, she met William Bradford Ross
William B. Ross
William Bradford Ross was the 12th Governor of Wyoming from 1923 to 1924. He was born in Dover, Tennessee to Ambrose B. Ross and Sue Ross....

, whom she married on September 11, 1902. Ross practiced law and planned to live in the American West. He moved to Cheyenne
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Cheyenne is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Wyoming and the county seat of Laramie County. It is the principal city of the Cheyenne, Wyoming, Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Laramie County. The population is 59,466 at the 2010 census. Cheyenne is the...

 and established a law practice, bringing his wife to join him there. Ross became a leader in the Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 in Wyoming. He ran for office several times, but always lost to Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...


Wyoming politics

In 1922, William Ross was elected governor of Wyoming by appealing to progressive voters in both parties. However, after little more than a year and a half in office, he died on October 2, 1924, from complications from an appendectomy. The Democratic Party then nominated Nellie Ross to run for governor in a special election the following month.

Nellie Tayloe Ross refused to campaign, but easily won the race on November 4, 1924. On January 5, 1925, she became the first female governor in the history of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. As governor she continued her late husband's policies, which called for tax cuts, government assistance for poor farmers, banking reform, and laws protecting children, women workers, and miner
A miner is a person whose work or business is to extract ore or minerals from the earth. Mining is one of the most dangerous trades in the world. In some countries miners lack social guarantees and in case of injury may be left to cope without assistance....

s. She urged Wyoming to ratify a pending federal amendment prohibiting child labor
Child labor
Child labour refers to the employment of children at regular and sustained labour. This practice is considered exploitative by many international organizations and is illegal in many countries...

. Like her husband, she advocated the strengthening of prohibition laws.

Ross ran for re-election in 1926, but was narrowly defeated. Ross blamed her loss in part on the fact that she had again refused to campaign for herself and the fact that she supported prohibition. Nevertheless, she remained active in the Democratic Party and campaigned for Al Smith
Al Smith
Alfred Emanuel Smith. , known in private and public life as Al Smith, was an American statesman who was elected the 42nd Governor of New York three times, and was the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 1928...

 in the 1928 presidential election though the two disagreed on prohibition. At the 1928 Democratic National Convention
1928 Democratic National Convention
The 1928 Democratic National Convention was held at Sam Houston Hall in Houston, Texas from June 26 – June 28, 1928. The convention resulted in the nomination of Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York for President and Senator Joseph T. Robinson of Arkansas for Vice-President.The convention was...

, she received 31 votes from 10 states for vice president on the first ballot. She also gave a speech seconding Smith's nomination. After the convention, she served as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee
The Democratic National Committee is the principal organization governing the United States Democratic Party on a day to day basis. While it is responsible for overseeing the process of writing a platform every four years, the DNC's central focus is on campaign and political activity in support...

 and as director of the DNC Women's Division.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her as the first female director of the U.S. Mint
United States Mint
The United States Mint primarily produces circulating coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce. The Mint was created by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1792, and placed within the Department of State...

 on May 3, 1933, where she served five full terms until her retirement in 1953, when Republicans under Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 and Richard M. Nixon regained the executive branch of government.

Retirement and death

After her retirement, Ross contributed articles to various women's magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

s and traveled extensively. She made her last trip to Wyoming in 1972 at the age of ninety-six. Five years later, she died in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, at the age of 101; at the time of her death, she was the oldest ex-governor in the United States. She is interred in the family plot in Lakeview Cemetery in Cheyenne.

Ross in retrospect

The Rosses lived in Cheyenne in a picket-fenced, gardened, porched, and gabled house at 902 E. 17th Street. Their home, now the residence of Larry and Marti Bressler, is included in the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

. The Bresslers received the 2008 Dubois Award from the City of Cheyenne for their efforts in restoring the structure. The honor is named for William Dubois, the architect
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

 who designed the legislative chambers of the Wyoming state capitol as well as other buildings in Cheyenne. Marti Bressler told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle: "This is Nellie's house. We're just the caretakers."

Visitors, who are allowed to tour the residence on occasion, are reminded that two governors, William and Nellie Ross, lived there. Marti Bressler says Nellie Tayloe Ross has disappeared from American history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

A textbook or coursebook is a manual of instruction in any branch of study. Textbooks are produced according to the demands of educational institutions...

s, but she is working to keep her legacy alive. The house has few artifact
Cultural artifact
A cultural artifact is a term used in the social sciences, particularly anthropology, ethnology, and sociology for anything created by humans which gives information about the culture of its creator and users...

s from the time the Rosses lived there. The kitchen
A kitchen is a room or part of a room used for cooking and food preparation.In the West, a modern residential kitchen is typically equipped with a stove, a sink with hot and cold running water, a refrigerator and kitchen cabinets arranged according to a modular design. Many households have a...

 is the original, even the cabinets and sink. The dining room
Dining room
A dining room is a room for consuming food. In modern times it is usually adjacent to the kitchen for convenience in serving, although in medieval times it was often on an entirely different floor level...

 table, fireplace coverings, the Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an sideboard, and light fixtures are all antiques of the proper period. The Rosses were not wealthy. William Ross had to borrow money against his life insurance
Life insurance
Life insurance is a contract between an insurance policy holder and an insurer, where the insurer promises to pay a designated beneficiary a sum of money upon the death of the insured person. Depending on the contract, other events such as terminal illness or critical illness may also trigger...

 policy. When he died, and his wife became governor, her brother had to supply the money to buy her clothes.

Nellie Ross was not a feminist and did not identify with suffragists in her era. Nevertheless, her biographer, Teva J. Scheer, points out in her biography, Governor Lady: The Life and Times of Nellie Tayloe Ross, that Ross was in fact a modern figure. "While [she] did not begin her adult life intending to 'do it all', she ended up successfully managing a family, the governorship, lecturing in the Chautauqua
Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with...

 circuits, a role in national politics and a federal career because her life was divided into several distinct periods that allowed her to concentrate on and enjoy each aspect of her life in turn."
  • Note: Miriam Ferguson
    Miriam A. Ferguson
    Miriam Amanda Wallace "Ma" Ferguson was the first female Governor of Texas in 1925. She held office until 1927, later winning another term in 1933 and serving until 1935.-Early life:...

     was elected governor of Texas
    Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

     on the same day as Nellie Tayloe Ross won her election. However, Ross was inaugurated fifteen days prior to Ferguson.

External links

  • Nellie Tayloe Ross Papers at the University of Wyoming
    University of Wyoming
    The University of Wyoming is a land-grant university located in Laramie, Wyoming, situated on Wyoming's high Laramie Plains, at an elevation of 7,200 feet , between the Laramie and Snowy Range mountains. It is known as UW to people close to the university...

     - American Heritage Center
    American Heritage Center
    The American Heritage Center is the University of Wyoming's repository of manuscripts, rare books, and the university archives. Its collections focus on Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West and a select handful of national topics: environment and conservation, the mining and petroleum industries,...

  • Nellie Tayloe Ross biography at Gale Cengage Learning
    Thomson Gale
    Gale is an educational publishing company based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, the United States, in the western suburbs of Detroit. It was part of the Thomson Learning division of the Thomson Corporation, a Canadian company, but became part of Cengage Learning in 2007.The company, formerly known...

  • Tayloe Ross genealogy
  • Famous Firsts by American Women
  • Nellie Tayloe Ross at Findagrave
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