Nellie Taylor Ross, the first woman state governor in the nation and the first woman to be director of the U.S. Mint, died of a heart ailment Monday at the Wisconsin Avenue Nursing Home. She was 101.
Mrs. Ross' career in Wyoming state and national politics spanned almost 30 years, and it was the product of opportunity made good by hard work. She began as a Democrats in a time of Republican dominance in the country. She reamined a Democrat and became vice chairman of the party's National Committee.
President Roosevelt appointed her director of the mint in 1933, a job that was regarded then as being of limited consequence. She not only mastered it, but also guided the mint through the difficulties of the Depression, World War II and the Korean conflict.
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Despite the fact that she was the first woman to hold certain high offices, she was a traditional in other ways. She never announced her actual age in public. By various accounts published over the years, she would have been either 92 or 97 at the time of her death. According to her own records, she was 101.
Mrs. Ross became governor of Wyoming in 1925. Her husband, William Bradford Ross, had been elected to the office in 1922. He died three weeks before the 1924 elections in which he was seeking a new term. His wife was elected in his stead. She was the only Democrat to win statewide office in Wyoming that year.
That was also the year in which "Ma" Ferguson was elected governor of Texas. Because Wyoming held its inauguration before Texas, Mrs. Ross became the first woman governor in the nation.
In 1926, Mrs. Ross ran for re-election and lost. She left office in January, 1927.
She already was a figure in national Democratic politics. In 1928, she served as vice chairman of the Democratic National Convention in Houston and seconded the nomination of Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York for President Smith lost to Herbert Hoover in a landside.
The stockmarket crash of 1929 and the Great Depression followed hard on the heels of that event. The landslide that led to Roosevelt's election in 1932 was in the making. Mrs. Ross spent those years as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee in charge of women's activities. She held that post until 1934, a year after she took over as director of the mint.
Because of the Depression, the mint had little to do when Mrs. Ross became its director. But one of Roosevelt's early actions was to take the United States off the gold standard, the mint was designated the depository of all the gold that previously had been in private hands. It also became the depository of large quantities of silver. Being director of the mint became a job of substance.
Mrs. Ross headed the mint from 1933 until 1933. She supervised the minting of oil coins and was in charge of the seven government offices that received, assayed, paid for and stored the government's gold and silver. The mint also makes medals for the military services.
In World War II, the mint worked around the clock. In thewar years, it produced more colnage than it had since its inception. Some of the pennies looked different - they were coated with zinc due to shortages of other metals.
In the Korean conflict, Mrs. Ross made an appeal for the public to turn in some of its pennies to ease a copper shortage.
"In each of the estimated 38,788,000 American families should release from hiding and return to business use just 10 one-cent pieces, over 1,260 tons of scare copper would be saved," she said.
Moreover, she said, it would take the mint five months to produce the 387,880,000 pennies that would thus be put back inot circulation.
Following her retirement in 1953, Mrs. Ross lived quietly in her Washington apartment. For many years, she also owned a farm in Maryland.
Mrs. Ross was born ear St Joseph, Mo. She was a descendant of the Tayloe family, one of whose members built the famous Octagon House here, and another of whom owned Cameron House, where President James Madison lived after the British burned the White House in the War of 1812.
She was educated in public and private schools. In 1902, she married William Bradford Ross, a lawyer from Tennessee. The couple lived in Cheyenne. Her body was taken back there for her funeral.
Mrs. Ross's survivors include two sons, Bradford, of Washington, and George Tayloe, of Marbella, Spain; four grandchildren, and six great grand-children