Grasso, Ella

Alternative names
Birth 1919-05-10
Death 1981-02-05

Biographical notes:

Ella Rosa Giovanna Oliva Tambussi Grasso, a Mount Holyoke College alumna, politician and former Governor of Connecticut, was born on May 10, 1919 in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, to James and Maria Oliva Tambussi. Both Italian immigrants, her father owned and operated the Windsor Locks Bakery, and her mother was a mill worker. Grasso went to St. Mary's School in Windsor Locks, Ct and the Chaffee School in Windsor, Ct. She entered Mount Holyoke College in 1936 and graduated magna cum laude with an B.A. degree in 1940. While an undergraduate she majored in economics and sociology, minored in history and political science, and earned a Phi Beta Kappa key her junior year. For the next two years she was a part-time assistant and teacher for the Department of Economics and Sociology, and in 1942 she received her M.A. degree in economics and sociology from Mount Holyoke. Later in her career, she was awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Mount Holyoke College (1975), Colgate University (1976), Smith College (1976), University of Hartford (1977), and Trinity College (1977). She married Thomas A. Grasso, a school principal, in 1942. They had two children. Grasso began her political career working for the Connecticut State Department of Labor in 1942. In 1943 she became the Assistant Connecticut State Director of Research for the War Manpower Commission and served until 1946. In 1952 Grasso was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives of the Connecticut General Assembly ; she was re-elected in 1954. From 1958-1971 she served as Connecticut Secretary of State, and from 1956-1968 she was chair of the Connecticut Democratic State Platform Committee. From 1956-1958 she was Democratic Committeewoman. She co-chaired the Resolutions Committee for the 1966 and 1968 Democratic National Conventions. In 1970 and 1972 she was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Connecticut's 6th District. While in Congress she served on the Education and Labor Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee. In 1974 Grasso was elected as Governor of Connecticut, becoming the first woman governor of Connecticut and the first woman governor elected in her own right. She was re-elected in 1978, but resigned from office on December 31, 1980 due to illness. After a ten-month battle with cancer, Grasso died on February 5, 1981 at the age of sixty-one in Hartford, Ct. On October 9, 1981 she received the Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan.

From the guide to the Ella T. Grasso Papers MS 0757., 1919-1981, 1970-1974, (Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections)


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