Skip to main content

Ella T. Grasso papers

Identifier: MS 0757

Scope and Contents

The papers of Ella Grasso (1919-1981), span the years 1919-1981, with the bulk dating from 1970-1974, and primarily document her work as a member of the United States Congress. The collection, organized in nine series, consists mainly of Grasso's correspondence with constituents reflecting her views on topics such as the Vietnamese Conflict, veteran affairs, President Richard Nixon's impeachment, and abortion. The papers are organized into the following series: Legislative Files; Correspondence; Connecticut State Files; Personnel Files; Biographical Information; Writings; Campaign Material; Articles, Sketches and Clippings; and Photographs. The Legislative Files are comprised of correspondence, original copies of House of Representative legislative bills and all Grasso's floor statements for the 92nd and 93rd sessions of Congress as printed in the House Record. The files are arranged alphabetically into subject files on topics such as agriculture, banking and currency, budget, civil rights, civil service, education, the economy, energy, the environment, foreign affairs, health, labor issues, the military, the post office, Social Security, taxes, transportation, and veterans. The Connecticut State Files contain letters, informational packets and publications sent to Grasso by companies, organizations and agencies in Connecticut on subjects that did not fall within her jurisdiction as a U.S. Representative. The Personnel files contain information about her office staff. Of note is the correspondence between Grasso and Mount Holyoke College Politics professor Victoria Schuck regarding the Mount Holyoke interns at the Washington Internship Program. The Writings series consists of speeches and articles that reveal Grasso's views on the contemporary political situation, women in politics, and the importance of being politically active. The Articles, Sketches and Clippings series includes contemporary articles about her activities as a politician, as well as articles about women in politics, published after Grasso was elected Governor of Connecticut in 1974. This series also includes publications on her husband Thomas Grasso. The Campaign Material series includes posters, flyers, and bumper stickers from her election campaigns. The Biographical Materials consist of the personal files from her office records such as insurance and private membership materials, as well as her diplomas, birth certificate and other related materials. Rounding out the collection is the Photographs series which includes formal and informal photographs of Grasso while at Mount Holyoke College and at the Mount Holyoke Commencement Ceremony in 1975.


  • Creation: 1919-1981
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970 - 1974

Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use


Biographical Note

Ella Rosa Giovanna Oliva Tambussi Grasso, a Mount Holyoke College alumna, politician and former Governor of Connecticut, was born on May 10, 1919 in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, to James and Maria Oliva Tambussi. Both Italian immigrants, her father owned and operated the Windsor Locks Bakery, and her mother was a mill worker. Grasso went to St. Mary's School in Windsor, Ct and the Chaffee School in Windsor Locks, Ct. She entered Mount Holyoke College in 1936 and graduated magna cum laude with an B.A. degree in 1940. While an undergraduate she majored in economics and sociology, minored in history and political science, and earned a Phi Beta Kappa key her junior year. For the next two years she was a part-time assistant and teacher for the Department of Economics and Sociology, and in 1942 she received her M.A. degree in economics and sociology from Mount Holyoke. Later in her career, she was awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Mount Holyoke College (1975), Colgate University (1976), Smith College (1976), University of Hartford (1977), and Trinity College (1977). She married Thomas A. Grasso, a school principal, in 1942. They had two children. Grasso began her political career working for the Connecticut State Department of Labor in 1942. In 1943 she became the Assistant Connecticut State Director of Research for the War Manpower Commission and served until 1946. In 1952 Grasso was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives of the Connecticut General Assembly ; she was re-elected in 1954. From 1958-1971 she served as Connecticut Secretary of State, and from 1956-1968 she was chair of the Connecticut Democratic State Platform Committee. From 1956-1958 she was Democratic Committeewoman. She co-chaired the Resolutions Committee for the 1966 and 1968 Democratic National Conventions. In 1970 and 1972 she was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Connecticut's 6th District. While in Congress she served on the Education and Labor Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee. In 1974 Grasso was elected as Governor of Connecticut, becoming the first woman governor of Connecticut and the first woman governor elected in her own right. She was re-elected in 1978, but resigned from office on December 31, 1980 due to illness. After a ten-month battle with cancer, Grasso died on February 5, 1981 at the age of sixty-one in Hartford, Ct. On October 9, 1981 she received the Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan.


215 boxes

Language of Materials



Grasso, Ella, 1919-1981; politician. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1940. Papers consist of legislative files, correspondence, Connecticut State files, personnel files, biographical materials, writings, campaign material, articles, sketches and clippings, and photographs. Primarily documenting her work as a member of the United States House of Representatives in Congress, 1970-1974, and her prior and subsequent political career in Connecticut.


This collection is organized into nine series:

  1. Legislative Files, 1971-1974
  2. Correspondence, 1971-1974
  3. Connecticut State Files, 1971-1974
  4. Personnel Files, 1971-1974
  5. Writings, 1956, 1962, 1975, 1976
  6. Campaign Material, ca.1958-1974
  7. Articles, Sketches and Clippings, 1940-1981
  8. Biographical Materials, 1919-1981
  9. Photographs, ca.1937-1975

History of the Collection

The Ella T. Grasso Papers were transferred from the Washington National Records Center to Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections on October 10, 1983. The transfer was done at the request of Thomas Grasso, Ella Grasso's husband. Additional personal items were donated in 1984 and 1985. In June 1976 Ms. Lucille B. Ritvo, Class of 1940, donated campaign materials on Ella Grasso. In October 2001 Lisa Tambussi-Salvini, Ella Grasso's niece, donated Grasso's BA and MA diplomas. Some material from Grasso's Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections alumnae biographical file was added to the collection. This includes Grasso's birth certificate, an audio recording of her funeral service, campaign material, articles, sketches and clippings, and photographs.

Processing Information

Part of Series I of the Ella T. Grasso Papers was inventoried and described by Heidi Marshal in 2000. The collection as a whole was processed in 2005 by archives intern Ralitsa Donkova, overseen by Jennifer Gunter King.

Ella T. Grasso Papers, 1919-1981 (bulk 1970-1974)
Edited Full Draft
Finding aid prepared by Ralitsa Donkova.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections Repository

50 College Street
8 Dwight Hall
South Hadley MA 01075-6425 USA