Grasso, Ella, 1919-1981

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Ella Rosa Giovianna Oliva Grasso, née Tambussi (May 10, 1919 – February 5, 1981) was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served as the 83rd Governor of Connecticut from January 8, 1975, to December 31, 1980, after rejecting past offers of candidacies for Senate and Governor. She was the first woman elected to this office and the first woman to be elected governor of a U.S. state without having been the spouse or widow of a former governor. She resigned as governor due to her battle with ovarian cancer.

Born in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, Grasso learned to speak fluent from her immigrant parents. After graduating from Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut, she went on to study sociology and economics at Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she earned her B.A. in 1940. Two years later, she earned a master's degree, also from Mount Holyoke. After graduation, Grasso served as a researcher for the War Manpower Commission in Washington, D.C., rising to the position of assistant director of research before leaving the Commission in 1946.

Grasso started in politics as a member of the League of Women Voters and Democratic speechwriter. She was first elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1952 and later became the first female Floor Leader in 1955. She was then elected as Secretary of State of Connecticut in 1958 and served until 1971. Grasso went on to serve two terms in the United States House of Representatives from 1970 to 1974. Then she was elected Governor in 1974 and re-elected in 1978. In March 1980, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and resigned from the governorship on December 31.

On February 5, 1981, less than a year after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer and less than six weeks after leaving office, Grasso died at Hartford Hospital after suffering a heart attack and organ failure after falling into a coma earlier in the day. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan posthumously awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the National Women's Hall of Fame inducted her in 1993. Grasso was also a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame in 1994.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Thomas J. Dodd Papers, undated, 1919-1971. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Papers, 1968-1985 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Isidore Sydney Falk papers, 1918-1984 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Marin, Michael F. Correspondence, 1980-1984. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 9/29/79
referencedIn Harvard Law School Forums Records Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
creatorOf Grasso, Ella. Correspondence with Marian Anderson, 1965-1978. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn East, Catherine, 1916-1996. Papers, 1941-1996 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, 1910-1972 (inclusive), 1959-1972 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers, ca. 1967 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Changing Role of Women: An Interview with Gov. Ella Grasso of Connecticut - 1976 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Carter White House Photographs Collection. 1/20/1977 - 1/22/1981. Carter White House Photographs: Presidential. 1/20/1977 - 1/22/1981. Jimmy Carter - Congressional Breakfast, Fr. 2-8; With Governor Ella Grasso of Connecticut, Fr. 9-18
referencedIn Heide, Wilma Scott, 1921-1985. Papers, 1968-1985 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Candidates for public office campaign materials, 1966-1976 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn 10/28/78 -- Fundraising Luncheon -- Gov. Ella Grasso, Hartford, CT JD Jimmy Carter Library
creatorOf Cotton, Helen Mary, 1934-1991. Scrapbooks, 1962-1985. Connecticut Historical Society
creatorOf Grasso, Ella. Ella T. Grasso Papers, 1919-1981 (1970-1974). Mount Holyoke College, Williston & Miles-Smith Library
referencedIn Grant, Madeleine P. (Madeleine Parker), 1895-. Papers, 1910-1972 (inclusive), 1959-1972 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Falk, I. S. (Isidore Sydney), 1899-1984. Isidore Sydney Falk papers, 1918-1984 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Grasso, Ella Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn Grasso, Ella T. United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn The Charles Shackford Papers, 1934-1984 (inclusive) Irving S. Gilmore Music Library
referencedIn Connecticut State Labor Council, AFL-CIO Records, undated, 1909-1991. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Feldman, Abraham J. (Abraham Jehiel), 1893-1977. Abraham J. Feldman papers, 1906-1977. American Jewish Archives
referencedIn Draft Material for Budget Hearing before Governor elect Ella T. Grasso, 12/6/74 Jimmy Carter Library
referencedIn 7661401 - William Lydgate Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn Audrey Beck Papers., undated, 1930-1983. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
creatorOf Grasso, Ella. Ella Grasso : commercials, 1972-1978. University of Oklahoma, Political Community Archives
referencedIn LBJ Recording of Telephone Conversation, WH Series, Speaker: OFFICE CONVERSATION, Time: ? Lyndon Baines Johnson Library
referencedIn Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards. 1893 - 2008. Photographs and Graphic Materials Considered for Use as Illustrations in the Report quot;...To Form a More Perfect Union ...Justice for American Womenquot;
referencedIn Meet the Press, 1/12/75 - Ella Grasso Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn East, Catherine Shipe. Papers of Catherine Shipe East. 1941-1995 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Papers of NOW officers, 1970-1977 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Thomas J. Dodd Papers, undated, 1919-1971. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Outgoing Correspondence by Name - House: Grasso, Ella Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn Shackford, Charles. The Charles Shackford papers, 1934-1984 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 10/17/80 [1]
referencedIn Spalding, Elizabeth Coxe. Papers of NOW officers, 1970-1977 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Ella T. Grasso Papers MS 0757., 1919-1981, 1970-1974 Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Papers, ca. 1967 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 1/17/80 [1]
referencedIn Herman Wolf Papers, undated, 1926-1981. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
creatorOf Connecticut Commission on the Arts. Correspondence : with Marian Anderson, 1963-1988. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn REPRESNTATIVES BELLA S. ABZUG, ELLA D. GRASSO AND LOUISE D. HICKS PRESS CONFERENCE AT WOMEN'S PRESS CLUB United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Connecticut. Governor (1975-1980 : Grasso). [Proclamations, 1975-1977]. Connecticut Historical Society
creatorOf Grasso, Ella, 1919-1981. Commencement address at Mount Holyoke College : typescript, 1975 June 1 / by Ella T. Grasso. Mount Holyoke College, Williston & Miles-Smith Library
referencedIn Connecticut Citizens Action Group Records., undated, 1964-2002 Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Staff Secretary. 1976 - 1981. Presidential Files. 1977 - 1981. 8/17/79 [1]
referencedIn Shackford, Charles. The Charles Shackford papers, 1934-1984 (inclusive). Yale University, Music Library
referencedIn Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, 1968 -1983 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Ella T. Grasso Papers MS 0757., 1919-1981, 1970-1974 Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Women and the Spirit of '76 - 1976 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Participants in the Meeting with Midwestern and Northeastern Governors [Meeting Attendee List] Gerald R. Ford Library
Relation Name
correspondedWith AFL-CIO Connecticut State Labor Council. corporateBody
correspondedWith Beck, Audrey Phillips, 1931-1983 person
associatedWith Catherine East, 1916-1996 person
associatedWith Connecticut Citizens Action Group. corporateBody
associatedWith Connecticut Commission on the Arts. corporateBody
associatedWith Connecticut. Governor (1975- : Grasso). corporateBody
associatedWith Cotton, Helen Mary, 1934-1991. person
correspondedWith Dodd, Thomas J. (Thomas Joseph), 1907-1971 person
associatedWith East, Catherine, 1916-1996. person
associatedWith Elizabeth Coxe Spalding person
associatedWith Falk, I. S. (Isidore Sydney), 1899-1984. person
correspondedWith Feldman, Abraham J. (Abraham Jehiel), 1893-1977. person
associatedWith Grant, Madeleine P. (Madeleine Parker), 1895- person
associatedWith Grasso, Ella T. person
associatedWith Grasso, Thomas. person
associatedWith Grasso, Thomas. person
correspondedWith Harvard Law School Forum corporateBody
associatedWith Heide, Wilma Scott, 1921-1985. person
associatedWith Lamson, Peggy. person
associatedWith Madeleine Parker Grant, 1895-1981 person
associatedWith Marin, Michael F. person
associatedWith Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Mount Holyoke College corporateBody
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994. person
associatedWith Peggy Lamson person
associatedWith Schuck, Victoria. person
associatedWith Schuck, Victoria. person
associatedWith Shackford, Charles. person
associatedWith Spalding, Elizabeth Coxe. person
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Oklahoma. Political Commercial Archive. corporateBody
associatedWith Wilma Scott Heide, 1921-1985 person
associatedWith Wolf, Herman. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Windsor Locks CT US
South Hadley MA US
Old Lyme CT US
Hartford CT US
District of Columbia DC US
Subject
Veterans--United States
Politicians--United States--Biography
Women politicians--United States
Veterans--Government policy--United States--History
Abortion--United States
Fuel consumption--Automobiles--United States
Women
Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975
Politicians spouses--United States
Veterans education--United States
Fuel--United States
Veterans
Advertising, political
Nixon Richard M (Richard Milhous) 1913 - Impeachment
United States--Politics and government - 1971-1974
United States--Congress--House--Biography
Connecticut--Social Conditions
Food stamps--United States
Politicians
Veterans--Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975 - United States
Politicians--United States
Food stamps
Birth control
Television advertising
Birth control--United States
Energy consumption
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Abortion
Politicians--United States--Correspondence
Women politicians
Connecticut--Politics and government--1951-
Occupation
Representatives, U.S. Congress--Connecticut
State Government Official
Researcher
State Representative
Governors--Connecticut
Activity

Person

Birth 1919-05-10

Death 1981-02-05

Female

Americans

Italian,

English

Information

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