Texas Originals

Miriam "Ma" Ferguson

June 13, 1875–June 25, 1961

Miriam Amanda Wallace wasn't considering a career in politics when she enrolled at Baylor Female College in the 1890s. In 1899, she married James Ferguson and planned to settle down and raise a family. However, Miriam would make history, becoming the first woman governor of Texas.

Jim Ferguson was elected governor in 1914 and re-elected two years later. During his second term, he was impeached for misapplication of public funds and declared ineligible to hold public office in Texas.

A few years later, in 1924, Miriam stunned Texans when she announced she would run for governor. Promising "two governors for the price of one," Miriam became known as "Ma" Ferguson and urged voters to restore "Pa's" honor by voting for her.

During the campaign, Jim vowed to do the governing if Miriam won. Many women were furious at Jim's plan to govern over his wife's shoulder, but the unusual plan worked. At the age of forty-nine, "Ma" Ferguson became Texas governor.

Charges of corruption plagued Miriam's first term, and she lost a re-election bid. Six years later, Miriam ran again, this time successfully, returning to the Governor's Mansion for a second term.

Miriam "Ma" Ferguson retired from public office in 1935. Her political life was over but her place in Texas history was secure. Sixty years would pass before Texas elected Ann Richards as its second woman governor.

For More about Miriam "Ma" Ferguson

The Texas State Libraries and Archives has an online display of the portraits and biographies of former Texas governors, including Miriam and James Ferguson.

The James Edward Ferguson Collection at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin contains campaign material, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and speeches that document the lives and political careers of Miriam and James Ferguson.

The Miriam A. Ferguson Collection at the Bell County Museum includes photographs, clothing, correspondence, housewares, and furniture. The Museum also keeps almost five hundred issues of the Ferguson Forum, a weekly newspaper James Ferguson published in Temple, Dallas, and Austin to generate funding for his and Miriam's political campaigns. The paper was published until 1935.

The Texas Collection at Baylor University houses the Governors James E. and Miriam "Ma" Ferguson Collection, which contains correspondence, legal documents, photographs, and speeches.

Selected Bibliography

Anders, Evan. Boss Rule in South Texas: The Progressive Era. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.

Brown, Norman D. Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug: Texas Politics, 1921–1928. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1984.

Gould, Lewis L. Progressives and Prohibitionists: Texas Democrats in the Wilson Era. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1992.

Green, George N. The Establishment in Texas Politics. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1979.

Guzman, Jane Bock. "Yet Another Look at the Fergusons of Texas." East Texas Historical Journal 44, no. 1 (2006): 40–48.

Huddleston, John D. "Ferguson, Miriam Amanda Wallace." Handbook of Texas Online.

"Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson." Texas State Cemetery.

Sallee, Shelley. "'The Woman of It': Governor Miriam Ferguson’s 1924 Election." Southwestern Historical Quarterly 100 (July 1996): 1–16.

Wilson, Carol O’Keefe. In the Governor’s Shadow: The True Story of Ma and Pa Ferguson.Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2014.

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Spanish Translation

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Miriam Ferguson campaign photo. Courtesy of Bell County Museum.
James Ferguson and Miriam Ferguson, holding bouquet of roses, standing in downtown Austin after arriving from Lubbock, where Miriam was declared Democratic nominee. Courtesy of Bell County Museum.
Miriam Ferguson standing in front of Lincoln Limo. The written words read, "To my governor Miriam A. Ferguson. From her sweetheart and admirer, Alvin M. Dunsley." Courtesy of Bell County Museum.