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Bell County Museum - Intimate Glimpse of Miriam A. Ferguson

Bell County Museum

Silent | 1920s

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  •  James “Pa” Ferguson campaigns for his wife in front of the Texas State Capitol Building 
  •  Miriam “Ma” Ferguson in office 
  •  Ferguson’s two daughters, Ouida and Dorris, and her grandson, George, drop by for a visit 
  •  At home in the Governor’s Mansion 
  •  George Nalle, Jr., hoists the colors 
  •  Ferguson’s daughter, Ouida Ferguson Nalle; her husband, George Nalle, Sr.; and their son, George, Jr. 
  •  Ouida and her sister, Dorris (right) 
  •  Ouida with the Nalle family dog, Penn 
  •  Easter celebration at the Governor’s Mansion 
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This edited home movie from the 1920s captures Miriam “Ma” Ferguson in Austin during her first term as Governor of Texas. The footage shows Ferguson at work in her office as well as at home in the Governor’s Mansion with her family. Also included are scenes of an Easter celebration at the residence, with children hunting for eggs on the front lawn.
Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson—better known as “Ma” Ferguson—was born in Bell County, Texas, on June 13, 1875. She married James Edward Ferguson, better known as “Pa” Ferguson, in 1899. The couple had two children: Ouida and Dorris. 
From 1915 to 1917, Ferguson served as the First Lady of Texas. After her husband was impeached and barred from holding any state office, she decided to run for the governorship herself in 1924. Telling voters that they would get “two governors for the price of one,” referring to her and her husband, Ferguson won not only the Democratic nomination but also the general election. As such, she became the first female Governor of Texas as well as the first elected female state governor in the United States. Ferguson ran for—and won—the position again in 1932.
Ferguson’s time as chief executive of Texas was not without its controversy. Rumors circulated that state highway contracts were given to those who advertised in the Fergusons’ newspaper, and that pardons were available for prisoners who made cash payments to the governor’s husband. Nevertheless, Ferguson took on many of the era’s tougher issues, aligning herself with anti-prohibitionists and denouncing the Ku Klux Klan. She also helped establish the University of Houston as a four-year institution.
Aside from an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 1940, Ferguson retired from political life after her term ended. She died of heart failure on June 25, 1961, at the age of 86.
James Edward Ferguson—better known as “Pa” Ferguson—was born on August 31, 1871, near Salado in Bell County, Texas. He married Miriam Amanda Wallace, better known as “Ma” Ferguson, in 1899. The couple had two children: Ouida and Dorris. 
Although he had never previously held office, Ferguson ran for Governor of Texas in 1914 as the anti-prohibition candidate. He won in 1914 and was reelected in 1916. Early in his second term, however, Ferguson became involved in a serious quarrel with the University of Texas after its board of regents refused to dismiss faculty members whom Ferguson found objectionable. In retaliation, the Governor vetoed the appropriations for the university. An impeachment trial followed in 1917, with the Texas Senate ultimately convicting Ferguson on 10 charges. As a result, the Court of Impeachment voted to remove the Governor from office and make him ineligible to hold any public office in the state of Texas. Ferguson did not give up politics, however. In addition to managing his wife’s gubernatorial campaigns, he ran for the President of the United States in 1920 and United States Senator in 1922. Both attempts were unsuccessful.
Ferguson died of a stroke on September 21, 1944.