'Ella Grasso: Connecticut's Pioneering Governor'

An interview with historian Jon E. Purmont

Colin McEnroe, left, with Governor Ella Grasso crica 1979 at Fort Drum in New York.
File Photo
'Ella Grasso: Connecticut's Pioneering Governor'
Download Audio
Audio Playlist
'Ella Grasso: Connecticut's Pioneering Governor'

I dug up an old photo of me and Gov. Ella Grasso, both wearing Army helmets.

I guess it had to be 1979. She was inspecting the troops in Fort Drum in upstate New York. We were spending the day in very close quarters, first on an airplane and then in a series of small military helicopters. She was angry at me about a story that had appeared that morning and never spoke to me the whole day. I guess you can see that in the body language. Morning was a very important time for Ella Grasso. She made her mind up about the whole day in the early morning.

Grasso was tense that day for a whole bunch of other reasons. A new biography by Jon Purmont tells of an instance in her first campaign for governor when she and her opponent visited a gun club and were invited to shoot. She couldn't hit anything and was a wreck afterwards. What if people took this as a sign of female inadequacy?  

Also, a year before on a trip to the same base, she and a female reporter had changed clothes together and the color of her underwear wound up in the next day's paper. Not the kind of thing she found amusing.

People are often described as studies in contradiction. Ella Grasso really, really was. Remarkably progressive and yet indelibly old school. She was an unpretentious, earthy, salty-tongued pol who could also express herself in boarding school French. 

Leave your comments below, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.




well said. i think i was on that trip that day. looks guys wore neckties in 90 degree heat. i always liked and respected her. she made history but it didnt seem to be her main goal. she distrused reporters, had an old school literal view. when i went to work for chris dodd and wasn't a reporter, she seemed to be much warmer toward me when I was an insider for a while.