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Women in Government
Women Governors in the U.S.
Governor Kate Brown/Flickr
AnnaMarie Houlis image
AnnaMarie Houlis,
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Journalist & travel blogger
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Women are far outnumbered in the United States government, but female governors have still made substantial contributions to the country. 

Let's take a look at female governors, past and present.

Current Female Governors

There are currently nine female governors in the United States.

1. Kate Brown

Kate Brown is the Democratic governor of Oregon, where she's served as governor since 2015. She was elected as secretary of state and, in 2016, was elected to lead the state to serve the remaining two years of former Gov. John Kitzhaber’s term. The attorney previously served in the Oregon House of Representatives, in the Oregon State Senate representing portions of Milwaukie and Portland, and as Oregon Secretary of State.

During her second inaugural address, Gov. Brown talked about the state of the economy and school systems in Oregon. And, shortly thereafter, she outlined her budget proposal and agenda with a goal of raising at least $2 billion in business taxes to put more money into the education system.

2. Gina Raimondo

Gina Raimondo is the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, where she's served as governor since 2015. The politician and venture capitalist is the state's 75th governor.

"When we began our work together four years ago, Rhode Island was stuck — and everybody knew it," she said in her 2019 State of the State Address. "Our unemployment rate was among the nation’s highest, schools were crumbling and our roads were ranked the worst in the country. Rhode Island is a small and connected state so we all knew someone who was out of work. The struggle was everywhere you looked. After spending so much time talking with so many people who had been out of work, some for over a year or more, I vowed to be the Governor who would get Rhode Island back to work. Rhode Island is a place where people have always taken pride in our work, and we’re proud to call Rhode Island home. So together, we shook up the old ways of doing things, and brought the change needed to get back on our feet again — and to create jobs and build a bright future for our children."

3. Kay Ivey

Kay Ivey is the Republican governor of Alabama, where she's served as governor since 2015. She was elected as lieutenant governor and later succeeded the governor who resigned as the 54th governor. She was previously the 38th Alabama State Treasurer from 2003 to 2011 and 30th Lieutenant Governor of Alabama from 2011 to 2017. 

Shortly after being sworn in, Gov. Ivey pledged to push for funding for infrastructure and new prison construction.

“The challenges we confront today did not just arrive on our doorstep; likewise, they will not go away in weeks or even months,” she said. “But if we work on them together — Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals — then today’s challenges can be looked on as tomorrow’s accomplishments.”

4. Kim Reynolds

Kim Reynolds is the Republican governor of Iowa, where she's served as governor since 2015. She was elected as the 46th lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2017 and later succeeded the governor who resigned for an ambassadorial appointment. Gov. Reynolds is the 43rd and first female governor of Iowa.

"One year ago, I stood at this podium and told you that my vision for the future is an Iowa overflowing with opportunity — opportunity for our working families, young people, and our communities, both rural and urban," she said in her inspirational talk for the 2019 State of the State Address. "A place where it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old, male or female. Where your last name and zip code aren’t nearly as important as your ability to dream and willingness to reach for it. A place where, if life got in the way of those dreams, you can make a new start. And if you’ve made mistakes, you can find a second chance. My vision for the future of Iowa hasn’t changed. But the future I see isn’t around the corner, or after the next election. The future is now. The time is now to deliver on the promises we’ve made to Iowans looking for a way up. It starts by taking the next step to prepare Iowans for dynamic careers and lifelong learning. That’s Future Ready Iowa."

5. Laura Kelly 

Laura Kelly is the Democratic governor of Kansas, where she started serving as governor in 2019. Now the 48th governor of the state, she's previously represented the 18th district in the Kansas State Senator from 2005 to 2019. 

In her 2019 State of the State address, she vowed to fully fund Kansas public schools and not raise taxes. 

“Unfortunately, throughout the decades, Kansas has made promises and then fallen into a troubling pattern,” she said. “It begins with a promise from elected leaders to fund our schools. Then a failure to follow through on that promise. That is going to change this year. This year, we will end this cycle of litigation and meet the needs of our students and teachers once and for all.”

6. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Michelle Lujan Grisham is the Democratic governor of New Mexico, where she started serving as governor in 2019. The 32nd governor previously represented New Mexico's first congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018.

“I firmly believe what we accomplish in these 60 days will set the course for a transformed state — a stronger and better state, not just in the next four years, but for decades to come,” she said in her 2019 State of the State address, which called for changes to gun laws. “Four hundred New Mexicans lost their lives to gun violence. That’s 400 too many,” she added.

7. Janet Mills

Janet Mills is the Democratic governor of Maine, where she started serving as governor in 2019. The lawyer is the state's 75th governor, who was first elected as Maine's attorney general by the Maine Legislature on January 6, 2009, succeeding G. Steven Rowe. 

Mills is Maine's first female governor and is very vocal about taking action to stop the opioid epidemic. She's even expanded Medicaid to allow thousands of additional Maine citizens into the program, including those who need assistance in fighting opioid addictions and other drug problems. She's also made plans to appoint an opioid czar in her first days in office.

“A major part of the health care crisis is the opioid epidemic,” Gov. Mills said in her inaugural 2019 State of the State Address, noting that she hopes to prevent casualties such as the 418 overdose deaths in Maine last year.

8. Kristi Noem

Kristi Noem is the Republican governor of South Dakota, where she started serving as governor in 2019. She's the 33rd governor of South Dakota. 

Her 2019 State of the State Address outlined policy priorities including improving state government transparency, connecting more people to high-speed internet and tackling methamphetamine abuse.

"Many Americans and many South Dakotans are losing their trust in government," she said. "Stories of government ineptitude and downright scandal don't help matters much. I hear you, and I'm with you."

9. Gretchen Whitmer

Gretchen Whitmer is the Democratic governor of Michigan, where she started serving as governor in 2019. The 49th governor of the state, she had served as a Michigan State Representative from 2001 to 2006 and Michigan State Senator from 2006 to 2015.

She's recently signed a number of executive directives, such as to strengthen prohibitions against LGBTQ discrimination, to create more transparency within the state government and to ensure equal pay for female state workers, among many others.

History of Female Governors

Nellie Tayloe Ross (the 14th Governor of Wyoming from 1925 to 1927) and Miriam "Ma" Ferguson (the first female Governor of Texas, serving from 1925 to 1927 and 1933 to 1935) were the two first female governors of the United States.

Since then, 44 women have served or are serving as the governor of 30 U.S. states, in addition to one woman who has served as governor in Puerto Rico. Of these female governors, 30 were first elected in their own right, three replaced their husbands and 11 became governor by constitutional succession, six of whom subsequently won full terms.

The record number of women serving simultaneously, which was achieved in 2004, 2007 and 2019, is nine. In fact, 16 women ran in the gubernatorial races in 17 states during the 2018 midterm elections. This set a record for the most women running; prior to 2018, the maximum number of women who'd run in the gubernatorial races had been 10.

Of all the women who've served or are serving as governors, there have only been two female governors who were pregnant and gave birth during their tenure: Jane Swift of Massachusetts, who was the first elected governor to give birth while in office and gave birth to twin girls one month into her term of office, and Sarah Palin of Alaska who gave birth to her son while in office.

While there hasn't been diversity in government, as the government is notoriously predominated by white men, the future looks to be female.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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