Governor Miriam Amanda Ferguson, played in our production by Rachel Summerhalder, was Texas’ first female governor. In fact, she was only the second female governor the United States had ever seen. She was elected Governor of Texas one election after her husband after he was impeached from the office, but told the state it would be as if they governed together, Texas had “two governors for the price of one.” as Miriam said. This proved to be disastrously corrupting.
As you could guess, there was quite a bit of controversy behind “Ma” Ferguson’s election. Rumors of bribes, pardons, and kickback payments enveloped her first term in office. She made special contracts and deals with companies that sided with her, and, though investigations never proved it, stories of dirty politics getting her into office circulated regularly. “Ma’ Ferguson also released thousands of prisoners who had been arrested on accounts of breaking prohibition, often allegedly associated with cash bribes. Tens of Texas Rangers, including Frank Hamer, retired when Governor Ferguson took office for her second term rather than serve under her again. To get back at them, she fired the remainder of the Rangers and hired her own, new force of Texas Rangers.
What a wretched person, right? Well, not everything Governor Ferguson did while in office (both times) left a bad taste in Texas’ big mouth. Firstly, she opened America’s eyes towards females in politics and women’s rights, winning each elections by a landslide. Governor Ferguson also signed House Bill 194, which made the University of Houston a four-year university, furthering education for Americans. Also, as shown in the play, it was Governor Ferguson who thought up the idea for a special force to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde, bringing “to the law, a relief” they had hunted for for years.
So there you have it: the good, the bad, and the mercenary-side of governor Miriam Ferguson. She may not get a lot of stage time during the musical, but she certainly made her mark in Texas’ history books. If you have yet to see Rachel Summerhalder
capture the role, I highly recommend doing so. This is a great show, and every cast member has done a substantial amount of research on their characters, which shows during performance.