Ella T. Grasso Papers Open to Public at Mount Holyoke College

Primary sources and correspondence valuable resource for scholars

For Immediate Release
November 7, 2005

Contact Allison Gillis

South Hadley, MA--The Ella T. Grasso papers, housed at the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, are now open to the public. Grasso (1919-1981), who earned both A.B. and M.A. degrees from Mount Holyoke, became the first woman governor of Connecticut and the first woman governor elected in her own right. Grasso also served in the House of Representatives from 1970 to 1974, and the bulk of the documents date from those years.

The collection will be a valuable resource for scholars of political science, history, and economics of the early 1970s, as it provides primary sources on veterans affairs, the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon's impeachment, gas prices and fuel shortages, family planning and birth control, and education legislation. Of special interest are the files on family planning and control, as this was the period of the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

The papers, originally housed at the Washington National Records Center, were transferred to Mount Holyoke by Grasso's husband, Thomas, in 1983. A classmate of Grasso also contributed materials from her various political campaigns, and Grasso's niece donated her A.B. and M.A. Mount Holyoke diplomas.

The papers were processed by archives intern Ralitsa Donkova '05, a politics major, who was struck by the similarity of the issues society faced then and now. "There was conflict over the Vietnam war, the energy crisis, and Roe v. Wade. That was 30 years ago, and now it's the same issues: another war, an energy crisis, and Roe v. Wade."

In addition to reading and organizing all the documents, Donkova wrote the finding aid of the collection. She is also creating an online exhibition and a regular exhibition about the Grasso collection, to open in mid-February 2006.

The processing project was funded by Clara R. Ludwig '37, Mary Tuttle '37, Gwendolyn Glass '46, and an anonymous donor.

Grasso began her political career working for the Connecticut State Department of Labor in 1942. In 1952 she was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives of the Connecticut General Assembly, where she served until 1958, when she became Connecticut secretary of state. In 1970 she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut's Sixth District. In 1974 Grasso was elected as governor of Connecticut. She was reelected in 1979, but resigned from office on December 31, 1980, due to illness.