June 25 marks the passing of the Lone Star State’s first female governor, Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson—better known as Ma Ferguson. In honor of this important Texas figure, let’s take a quick look at her life and contribution.
Ma Ferguson was born in Bell County in 1875 as Miriam Wallace. She attended college after prep school for a few years and then met Bell County attorney Jim Ferguson. The two married in 1899 when Ma Ferguson was 24 years old. She spent the next few years as a homemaker, taking care of her husband and two daughters.
Increasingly, her husband took an interest in politics and by 1915 had been elected governor of Texas, though it was a governorship filled with controversy. After a year into his second term, Governor Ferguson was impeached and convicted on charges of embezzlement and mishandling funds. He was thrown out office and banned from holding office again in the state.
In 1924, unable to run under his own name, Jim Ferguson focused his efforts on getting his wife into office. They ran a hard campaign against Judge Felix Robertson, who had been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. Ma Ferguson was against the Klan and made that stance part of her political platform. And by 1925, the good people of Texas had voted her into office, making her the state’s first woman governor.
She didn’t have an easy time of it. She’d pledged to curb government spending by $15 million a year, but expenditures actually went up. And she had tried to get an anti-mask law passed against the Klan, but it was overturned by a court. She was also criticized for heavy use of her power to parole and pardon—pardoning about 100 prisoners a month. And detractors accused her and her husband of taking bribes.
Ma Ferguson lost when she ran for reelection in 1926 and was out of the political spotlight for a few years. She was elected again in 1932 during the Great Depression and championed President Roosevelt’s New Deal. She stepped away from politics in 1935 and died in 1961. She was buried in Austin next to her husband who died in 1944.
At Veteran Energy, we know a lot has taken place to make Texas the great state it is today. And we’re glad we have a chance to reflect back on that history.