Ella Grasso’s lasting legacy to Connecticut


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — There is one Connecticut Italian American who was a national ground breaker for women, and who has over shadowed every Governor for the past 34 years.

Of all the statues of famous Connecticut residents from the past that adorn the outside of the Capitol building, there is only one woman, Ella Tambussi Grasso. The statue gazes down on the south entrance used by the every Governor every day.

In 1974, she became the nation’s first woman Governor to be elected in her own right. She was re-elected in 1978.

Her daughter Susan and son Jimmy witnessed it all, first hand.

“She was a role model in a job that had no role models,” Susan Grasso said.

They both still call Connecticut home.

“One of the giant shoulders that women have been able to lean on,” said Jim Grasso.

Ella Grasso’s parents were immigrants from Italy that highly valued education. They sent her to private schools. She was an honors student, and went to college on scholarship.

“She was so proud of being Italian,” Susan Grasso said.More Italian in Connecticut:

In addition to being the first woman, she was also Connecticut’s first Italian American Governor. Her predecessor had famously left the state to go skiing in Vermont following a crippling ice storm.  It was a politically deadly mistake.

When the blizzard of 78 crippled the state, and the devastating Windsor Locks tornado of 1979, she was a constant presence on radio and television directing the recovery that has impacted every Governor since.

“I think it would be death for a Governor not to be as vigorous during those periods of time,” Jim Grasso said.

Susan Grasso brought her mother’s briefcase to our recent interview, and revealed a special plan for it.

“I plan to give it to the next woman who breaks the glass ceiling in politics,” Susan Grasso said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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