Boldly going into an uncharted universe, the trailblazing governors demonstrated that women could succeed in politics, effectively lead state government, and have fun in the process! They believed politics was an instrument of service, and courage, intelligence, and integrity were their defining characteristics.
Who are these six remarkable women? Connecticut’s Ella Grasso, Washington’s Dixy Lee Ray, Kentucky’s Martha Layne Collins, Vermont’s Madeleine Kunin, Oregon’s Barbara Roberts, and New Jersey’s Christine Todd Whitman. They are among the nine who comprise the first generation of women governors. Their political careers spanned fifty-plus years of American history: the rise of the women’s movement and its backlash, the political shift to the right, and rising anger toward both politics and government.
What drew them to politics? What factors enabled them to succeed? What was it like to govern a state? Did gender matter? What are the lessons learned that could help other women pursue a political life? Offering an insider’s view, Trailblazing Governors explores these questions and highlights the essential qualities of these everyday women who had the gumption to stand up for what they believed. Seen collectively, their common experiences and unique differences reveal what it takes to balance one’s life and climb to the most powerful political position in state government. From blue collar to blueblood, their diverse histories confirm that there is no single formula for success. Their different policy viewpoints demonstrate that women do not all think and act alike anymore than men do.
Governors work in dynamic political environments and are always in the spotlight. They manage large bureaucracies, oversee state budgets, command the National Guard, respond to natural disasters, and make high-level appointments. Their stories provide insight into the intersection of gender, politics and leadership. The lessons they learned may help the next generation of women in politics, including those who aspire to become President.
Based on actual interviews, news stories, and information from state archives, readers will discover an abundance of historical and personal stories. However, it is more than a political “how-to” book. These six remarkable women will inspire all who wish to lead a meaningful life.