Texas Originals

The First Female Governor Of Texas: Miriam ‘Ma’ Ferguson

She served as "First Lady" of Texas as wife of Texas Governor Jim Ferguson. Then succeeded him as the first woman elected as Governor of Texas.

Miriam Amanda Wallace was born in Bell County in 1875. She attended Salado College and Baylor Female College before marrying Jim Ferguson at the age of 24. Thereafter, she devoted her energies to making a home for her husband and her two daughters until 1924, when she entered the governor’s race on her husband’s behalf. Her campaign slogan was “Two Governors for the Price of One.” In November 1924, she and Nellie Ross of Wyoming were elected the nation’s first female governors.

Miriam Amanda Wallace wasn’t considering a career in politics when she enrolled at Baylor Female College in the 1890s.  In 1899, she married James Ferguson and planned to settle down and raise a family.  However, Miriam would make history, becoming the first woman governor of Texas.

Jim Ferguson was elected governor in 1914, and re-elected two years later.  During his second term, he was impeached for misapplication of public funds and declared ineligible to hold public office in Texas.

A few years later, in 1924, Miriam stunned Texans when she announced she would run for Governor.  Promising “two governors for the price of one,” Miriam became known as “Ma” Ferguson and urged voters to restore “Pa’s” honor by voting for her.  

During the campaign, Jim vowed to do the governing if Miriam won. Many women were furious at Jim’s plan to govern over his wife’s shoulder, but the unusual plan worked. At the age of 49, “Ma” Ferguson became Texas Governor.

Charges of corruption plagued Miriam’s first term, and she lost a re-election bid.  Six years later, Miriam ran again, this time successfully, returning to the Governor’s mansion for a second term.  

Miriam “Ma” Ferguson retired from public office in 1935.  Her political life was over but her place in Texas history was secure.  60 years would pass before Texas elected Ann Richards as its second woman Governor. 


Selected Bibliography

FERGUSON, MIRIAM AMANDA WALLACE. Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/FF/ffe6.html
Norman D. Brown. Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug: Texas Politics, 1921-1928. Texas A&M UP, 1984.

This originally aired on April of 25, 2013. 

Photographs shows Texas Democratic politician James Edward “Pa” Ferguson, Jr. (1871-1944), who served as Governor of Texas from 1915 to 1917. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2011)
Mrs. Miriam Amanda Ferguson