New Book on Grasso Recalls Tough, Popular, Groundbreaking Leader

When Ella Tambussi Grasso ran for governor of Connecticut in 1974, she had not lost an election since she was first voted into the state's General Assembly in 1952. The people of Connecticut chose her as the nation's first woman to be elected governor in her own right--the capstone of a long and successful career dedicated to public service, effective government, and the democratic process. That is the theme for a new book written by Jon Purmont, emeritus professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University, and a former Grasso administration staffer.  Purmont will be John Dankosky’s guest on WNPR’s Where We Live, discussing the late Governor.

Grasso, of Windsor Locks, played key roles in Connecticut Democratic politics during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Those decades saw emerging consumer protection laws, greater government transparency, the Vietnam War, and the rise of feminism. During her tenure as governor, Grasso's leadership was tested in the face of fiscal problems, state layoffs, and budget shortfalls. The daughter of Italian immigrants, she endeared herself to her constituents during the great Blizzard of 1978, when she stayed at the State Armory around the clock to direct emergency operations and make frequent television appearances.  Before being elected Governor, she served as a member of Congress and Connecticut's Secretary of the State.

Purmont worked for Grasso for 22 months, from the beginning of her second term through her resignation in 1980, to her death in 1981.  More than 30 years later, the New Haven Register reports he has written what may be the first piece of scholarly work on the state’s first female governor, using interviews, documents and his own personal recollections.“Ella Grasso: Connecticut’s Pioneering Governor,” to be released later this year, is being published next month by Wesleyan University Press.