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Ella T. Grasso

[gras-oh, grah-soh]

Ella Grasso (May 10, 1919February 5, 1981), born Ella Giovanna Oliva Tambussi, was an American politician.


Grasso was born in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, to Italian immigrant parents. Contrary to popular belief, she was not the first elected woman to serve as governor of a U.S. state; however, Grasso was the first woman who was elected governor "in her own right," without being the wife or widow of a past governor. She was also the first female governor of Connecticut.

After attending St. Mary's School in Windsor Locks, and then the Chaffee School in Windsor, Grasso went on to Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she was awarded her B.A. in 1940 and her M.A. in 1942. After graduation, she served as assistant director of research for the War Manpower Commission of Connecticut.


In 1952, Grasso was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives and served until 1957. She became first woman to be elected Floor Leader of the House in 1955. In 1958 she was elected Secretary of the State of Connecticut and was re-elected in 1962 and 1966. She was the first woman to chair the Democratic State Platform Committee and served from 1956 to 1968. She served as a member of the Platform Drafting Committee for the 1960 Democratic National Convention. She was the co-chairman for the Resolutions Committee for the Democratic National Conventions of 1964 and 1968. In 1970 she was elected as a Democratic representative to the 92nd Congress, and won re-election in 1972.

In 1974 Grasso did not run for re-election to Congress, instead running for the Connecticut governorship, and won. She began her first term in 1975, and was elected to a second term in 1978.

Grasso was married to Thomas Grasso in 1942, and together had two children, Susanne and James. On December 31, 1980, Grasso resigned her office due to her ovarian cancer, and died of it several weeks later on February 5, 1981, at the age of 61. Later that year, President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Women's Hall of Fame inducted her in 1993. She was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame in 1994.


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