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Ella T. Grasso ’40 Papers Open to Public

  Ella Grasso
Ella T. Grasso ’40

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 U.S. House of Representatives from 1970 to 1974, and the bulk of the documents date from those years.

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. She worked in various capacities for the Democratic Party at the state and national levels. In 1970 she was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Connecticut’s Sixth District. While in Congress she served on the Education and Labor Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee. In 1974 Grasso was elected as governor of Connecticut. She was reelected in 1978, but resigned from office on December 31, 1980, due to illness.

According to archives intern Ralitsa Donkova ’05, who processed the Grasso papers last summer, the papers were originally housed at the Washington National Records Center. Grasso’s husband, Thomas, transferred them to Mount Holyoke 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 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.

Donkova, a politics major, enjoyed working on the project. “She was a very controversial person,” Donkova said of Grasso. Donkova is 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 all the documents, making certain they were properly arranged by date and subject matter, and filing them in acid-free folders and boxes, 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. Donkova has worked at the archives for the past two-and-a-half years.

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


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Copyright © 2006 Mount Holyoke College. This page created and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on June 13, 2006.