The first woman ever elected to govern one of the United States was a Texan – Miriam “Ma” Ferguson.
She was not, however, the first woman to serve as governor of one of the states. Nelly Ross was inaugurated as governor of Wyoming, to fill her husband’s term.
Ma Ferguson grew into the office. Her husband “Pa” Ferguson was so corrupt that he was impeached in 1917, and part of the judgment barred him from holding public office again.
So in 1924 his wife, Marian (“Ma”) Ferguson ran instead. At rallies, all she did was introduce “Pa” who gave a rousing speech. Texas preferred “Ma” over any Republican. And “Ma” took action. Overcrowded prisons? No problem. “Ma” issued thousands of pardons.
Re-elected in 1934, “Ma” Ferguson battled the Ku Klux Klan by making it illegal to wear a mask in Texas. She re-worked the Texas Rangers, too. Many Rangers quit when she was re-elected. “Ma” fired the remainder and appointed Texas Rangers of her own, including some celebrities. If memory serves me, the singer Kate Smith was made a Texas Ranger.
“Ma” could make these appointments because the Rangers were attached directly to the Governor’s Office. As an upshot of “Ma’s” actions, the Texas Rangers were transferred to the new Department of Pubic Safety.
She’s still a controversial figure in Texas history. At least, to a few of us.
September 17, 2018
"Remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free someone else." - Toni Morrison. And "Ma" Ferguson did exactly that!