The election of Ella Grasso in 1974 gave Connecticut its first female governor and its first governor of Italian heritage. Her election also gave the nation the first woman of any state to be elected governor in her own right, without having run on the record of a husband who had also been governor.
Born Ella Giovanna Oliva Tambussi, her parents James and Maria (Oliva) Tambussi were Italian immigrants who valued education highly and made it possible for her to attend private schools. She attended St. Mary’s School, Windsor Locks, and the Chaffee School in Windsor and won a scholarship to Mount Holyoke College, where she received a B.A. in 1940 and an M.A. in economics and sociology in 1942.
Convinced by her educational experiences that she should enter public service, Grasso served with Connecticut’s War Manpower Commission during World War II. In 1942, she married Thomas Grasso. The couple had two children, Susanne and James.