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The Texas Experience - Miriam "Ma" Ferguson

Jim Ruddy

Sound | 1986

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  •  Susan Howard talks about Miriam Ferguson. 
  •  The Ku Klux Klan in politics. 
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Produced by Jim Ruddy and presented by the Shell Companies Foundation and the Texas Committee for the Humanities, The Texas Experience presents the history of Texas through a series of one-minute clips. Each clip features a celebrity narrator briefly exploring a specific aspect of Texas history or culture, with topics ranging from early women settlers to Buddy Holly's short but influential career. In this episode, actor Susan Howard presents Miriam "Ma" Ferguson's bold stand against the Ku Klux Klan that lead to her election as Texas' first female governor.
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.