Joan McInroy Finney was the first woman governor of Kansas. She was born in Topeka in 1925, where she also enjoyed her first years of high school. She moved with her family to Manhattan for her senior year. When at MHS, she was active in Girl Reserves, the Commercial Club and on the Senior Sneak committee. Returning to Topeka after graduation, she worked from 1953- 1969 as a staff member in the Topeka and Washington, D.C. offices of the U.S. Senator from Kansas, Republican Frank Carlson. In 1957, she married Spencer Finney, Jr. In 1978, she received a degree in economic history from Washburn University.
She was Commissioner of elections for Shawnee County from 1970-1972. Unsuccessful as a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, she became an administrative assistant to the Topeka mayor. Then, changing political party in 1972, as a Democrat she became the first woman elected Kansas State Treasurer. She served from 1975-1991.
She was elected Governor in 1990 by defeating former Governor John W. Carlin in the Democratic primary and then Governor Mike Hayden in the general election. She was the first woman in the U.S. to defeat an incumbent Governor in a general election. She served as Governor of Kansas until 1995. Joan Finney had three children and died in 2001.