PEOPLE THAT BUILT OUR NATION – NELLIE ROSS

Posted: February 27, 2017 in Uncategorized
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While researching one of my books I discovered a letter that was addressed to a lady in Wyoming.  The letter was dated 1928; a time that women were supposed to be in the kitchen and taking care of babies.  They were not to be in a leadership role and were certainly not to be involved in politics.  Women had been given the right to vote via the 19th Amendment of the Constitution only eight years earlier in 1920.

There were several aspects to the correspondence that I found interesting.  The letter addressed, among other things, a discussion around prohibition and implementation of the Amendment that banned the sale of alcohol for human consumption.  The tone of the letter was discussion between two adults on an equal plane with no regard to gender.  Another aspect of the letter that caused me to take note was the letterhead that identified the lady as vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The woman in the correspondence began her career as a kindergarten teacher.  In 1900 she married a Tennessee lawyer.  Together they moved West and settled in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Eventually her husband ran for public office and was elected Governor of Wyoming in 1922.  Two years later he died in office and his wife was elected to replace him as Governor for the remainder of his term.  This made her the first female governor in the United States.  Ironically she refused to campaign for her initial election but despite this her supporters took the initiative to help her and she was elected.  She continued her husband’s policies which included reduced taxes, aid to farmers, child labor laws and strengthening prohibition laws.

She continued her refusal to campaign for herself and in 1926 she lost her re-election bid by a narrow vote.  Her refusal to campaign for herself and her prohibition policies were identified as two reasons for her defeat.  She remained active in politics and in 1928 she spoke to the National Democratic Convention where she seconded the nomination of Al Smith for President.  Quite an accomplishment for a female at the time.

The lady remained very active in the Democratic party and in 1933 she was appointed as Director of the U.S. Mint.  This appointment was another first for the female gender.  She served as director of the U.S. Mint until 1956 serving under Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower.  She never remarried and spent her life in service to the country and raising her four children.  The woman did not just reach gender imposed glass ceilings but busted through them.

The ladies name was Nellie Tayloe Ross.  Mrs Ross died in Washington, D.C. in 1977 at the age of 101.  One of the many unknown individuals that helped to build our country.

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