Friday, October 30, 2009

Nellie Tayloe Ross,Governor, First Woman Appointed to Major Office

Nellie Tayloe Ross (Nov. 29, 1976) was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, a longtime "jumping-off-place" for wagon trains, and she benefited from the strong heritage of Western women.  She accompanied her attorney husband to Cheyenne as a bride in 1902 and live a conventional life until his dealth in 1924.  He was then in the middle of a term as governor, and she was elected to fill the two remaining years until the next scheduled gubernatiorial election.  On Jan. 5, 1925, the nation had its first female governor. She served until January of 1927, having lost the 1926 election.  She did not give up on a political career, however, and moved to the East Coast to work for the national Democratic Party. When Franklin Roosevelt won his landslide in 1932, he became the first President to appoint women to major offices.  Quick to reward Ross for her loyalty, he appointed her director of the U.S. Mint within weeks of his inauguration.
The first woman to serve in this position, she found a demoralized staff and a meager budget, but went on to skillfully administer the office.  After overcoming the problems of the Great Depression, she dealt with those of World War II, including a servere paper shortage and Nazi attempts to counterfeit money. After 20 years as director of the Mint, Ross retired in 1953.
She was the first American woman to have her image struck on a medal made by the Mint and is also honored on the cornerstone of the famous Fort Knox Bullion Depository, which was built under her leadership.  Although she is usually remembered for her governorship of Wyoming, Nellie Tayloe Ross actually spent most of her life in Washngton.  Nellie Tayloe Ross lived on to 101, seemingly an anachronism to the publlic.  Her death in the same year as Elvis Presley's was little noted. (Source National Women's History Museum,

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