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Ella Grasso

Connecticut's Pioneering Governor

Jon E. Purmont

Publication Year: 2012

When Ella Tambussi Grasso ran for governor of Connecticut in 1974, she had not lost an election since she was first voted into the state's General Assembly in 1952. The people of Connecticut chose her as the nation's first woman to be elected governor in her own right--the capstone of a long and successful career dedicated to public service, effective government, and the democratic process. During her tenure as governor, Grasso's leadership was tested in the face of fiscal problems, state layoffs, and budget shortfalls. The daughter of Italian immigrants, she endeared herself to her constituents during the great Blizzard of 1978, when she stayed at the State Armory around the clock to direct emergency operations and make frequent television appearances. Author Jon E. Purmont, who served as Grasso's executive assistant when she was governor, draws on his diary from that time, research in Grasso's archives, and interviews with Grasso's family and friends to give us a rich and intimate portrait of this political pioneer.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Series: The Driftless Connecticut Series & Garnet Books

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvii

Several years ago, on a visit to St. Louis, Missouri, a Commissioner for the County of St. Louis queried me about Ella Grasso. She asked, “How did she do it? I want to know all about her."...

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1 Child of Twentieth-Century Pilgrims

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pp. 1-16

Ella Grasso’s remarkable journey commenced on May 10, 1919, in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, at a time when America and Europe were recovering from the turbulence of military conflict accompanied...

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2 One of the Country’s Most Wonderful Women

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pp. 17-29

In the autumn of 1936, young Ella Tambussi moved on to college at Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Her matriculation there provided her with opportunities not only to receive an excellent...

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3 The Whole Day . . . a Rosy Glow

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pp. 30-50

Tom Grasso would eventually win Ella’s hand in marriage. His persistent and tenacious quest to marry her, however, would take years to accomplish because Ella put off marriage until she completed...

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4 Involved in the Making of a Government

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pp. 51-68

Soon after their marriage, Ella and Tom Grasso took up residence at 13 Olive Street in Windsor Locks across the street from her parents’ home at 12 Olive Street. That decision would prove beneficial because...

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5 Working in the Vineyards

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pp. 69-92

Ella Grasso embarked on her tenure as Secretary of the State with her usual high energy, enthusiasm, commitment, and determination to succeed and excel at the tasks and challenges that lay before her. Inheriting an office...

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6 I Can Be a Gadfly Here

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pp. 93-129

Washington, D.C., the political epicenter of the nation, has been derisively described as a one-shop town, a place where politics is the only game in town, and where politics is frequently the principal...

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7 I Believe Working for People Is the Noblest Profession

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pp. 130-157

January 19, 1974, unfolded as a stormy, wintry New England day in Connecticut. Snow, ice, and sleet blanketed the roads and highways throughout the state. For Ella Grasso, however, it was the day of her long...

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8 The Daughter of a Tortonese Governs Connecticut

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pp. 158-180

La Stampa one of Italy’s largest newspapers proudly proclaimed the news headline “The Daughter of a Tortonese Governs Connecticut” after Ella Grasso’s historic gubernatorial victory. And it reported...

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9 I Love You . . . I Love You All

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pp. 181-221

Ella Grasso’s numerous problems as Governor were caused to a large extent by a confluence of controversies that were present throughout her tenure as Governor. The untimely death of John Bailey...

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pp. 222-224

October 9, 1981 was a brilliant autumn day, which added to the dazzling, luminous splendor of the glimmering crystal chandeliers in the White House East Room. There before an intimate assemblage...


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pp. 225-254


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pp. 255-264

E-ISBN-13: 9780819573445
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819573438

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: The Driftless Connecticut Series & Garnet Books

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Subject Headings

  • Grasso, Ella.
  • Governors -- Connecticut -- Biography.
  • Women governors -- Connecticut -- Biography.
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