Women Elected to US House at Highest Rate in Western States

The west holds 9 of the Top 13 slots for states with the largest percentage of seats won by women since Jeannette Rankin was elected in 1916; Hawaii, Nevada, and Wyoming rank 1-2-3

hawaiiseal10.pngWith six female members of the U.S. House either campaigning for higher office (Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii), losing their 2012 primary election (Jean Schmidt of Ohio), or announcing their retirement (Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Lynn Woolsey of California), it is unclear whether women will be able to reclaim these numbers and match or eclipse their current 76-seat hold on the nation’s lower legislative chamber next year.

Add to that several first term incumbents who will face competitive general reelection bids, and it will be a challenge for women to break the 80-member mark for the first time in U.S. House history.

The number of female U.S. Representatives has stagnated in the mid-70s for the last three election cycles, after gradually increasing from the mid-20s for the previous two decades.

While a recent Smart Politics report highlighted female candidates in the five states which have yet to elect a woman to the House since statehood, this report highlights the stark differences in the rate women have won U.S. House seats by state and by region.

A Smart Politics review of U.S. House election results finds that seats apportioned to western states have been more than twice as likely to be represented by a woman than any other region since the first female was elected to the chamber in 1916, with Hawaii (36.5 percent), Nevada (22.1 percent), and Wyoming (18.8 percent) holding the top three spots.

The first woman elected to the U.S. House was Republican Jeannette Rankin of Montana in 1916.

Rankin served two interrupted terms, winning again in the Election of 1940 and is the only woman to represent the Treasure State in the House to date.

During this nearly 100-year span since 1916, a total of 243 women have won 1,070 seats to the chamber out of 20,884, or 5.1 percent.

The western region has been the most hospitable to women launching and winning successful campaigns to the U.S. House – claiming 329 of the 3,118 seats allocated in the 13-state region since 1916, or 10.6 percent of all seats.

That is more than double the rate of seats won by women in any other region.

The northeast is next with 260 out of 5,159 seats, or 5.0 percent, followed by the Midwest at 4.2 percent (249 of 5,949 seats), and the south at the bottom at 3.5 percent (233 of 6,658 seats).

Overall, women have held U.S. House seats in the west at 2.5 times the rate (10.6 percent) of the other three regions (4.2 percent).

Percentage of U.S. House Seats Won by Women by Region Since 1916

Region
# Women
Seats won
Total seats
% Won
West
73
329
3,118
10.6
Northeast
50
260
5,159
5.0
Midwest
54
249
5,949
4.2
South
66
233
6,658
3.5
Total
243
1,070
20,884
5.1

Note: Total number of seats calculated by adding the number of seats allocated to each state in the region each election cycle. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

Breaking down the data by states, it is therefore no surprise that the west holds seven of the Top 10 slots, and nine out of the Top 13, including the top three.

Hawaii leads the country with women winning 19 of its 52 seats allocated across the 27 election cycles since statehood, or 36.5 percent.

The Aloha State is followed by Nevada at 22.1 percent (15 of 68 seats) in second and Wyoming at 18.8 percent (9 of 48 seats) in third.

Women currently hold four of the six seats allocated to these three western states.

Other western states appearing in the Top 10 are California at tied for #6 with 11.4 percent (183 of 1,608 seats), Oregon at #8 with 10.8 percent (21 of 194), Colorado at #9 with 10.3 percent (24 of 232), and Washington at tied for #10 with 9.0 percent (30 of 335).

The only western states to rank outside the Top 25 are Utah at #28 (3.6 percent), Montana at #37 (2.3 percent), and Alaska which has never elected a woman to the House.

Connecticut is first in the northeast region and #4 overall with 13.8 percent of its seats held by women since 1916 (38 of 275) followed by Maine at #5 with 11.8 percent (15 of 127).

Connecticut has sent at least one woman to the U.S. House for 30 consecutive years ever since Democrat Barbara Kennelly won a special election in January 1982.

Eleven-term Democrat Rosa DeLauro is the only woman currently serving in the Connecticut delegation.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Maryland at tied for #6 with 11.4 percent (39 of 343 seats), and Florida at tied for #10 with 9.0 percent (54 of 597).

The top ranking Midwestern state is Ohio at #15 with 6.1 percent. The Buckeye State has seen 64 of its 1,051 seats apportioned to it across the 48 election cycles since 1916 held by women.

The Midwestern states of Iowa and North Dakota have never elected a woman to the U.S. House and South Dakota and Wisconsin only did so fairly recently.

But while South Dakota has been represented exclusively by women in the House since 2004, and now ranks #18 on the list with 5.6 percent (5 of 89), Wisconsin lands the third-worst rank in the region at #35 overall with just 2.4 percent of its seats held by women during this near 100-year span (11 of 463 seats).

In the first several decades since Rankin’s victory in 1916, several women, particularly in the south, were elected to the House in special elections after the death of their husbands and served just one term.

As such, women from the south have averaged just 3.5 terms of service, compared to 5.2 terms for women in the northeast, 4.6 terms for women in the Midwest, and 4.5 terms for women in the west.

Twelve of the southern region’s 16 states appear in the bottom half of the national rankings, including five of the bottom 10 slots.

Percentage of U.S. House Seats Won by Women by State Since 1916

Rank
State
# Women
Seats won
Total seats
% Won
1
Hawaii
5
19
52
36.5
2
Nevada
3
15
68
22.1
3
Wyoming
2
9
48
18.8
4
Connecticut
6
38
275
13.8
5
Maine
3
15
127
11.8
6
California
34
183
1,608
11.4
6
Maryland
8
39
343
11.4
8
Oregon
5
21
194
10.8
9
Colorado
4
24
232
10.3
10
Florida
13
54
597
9.0
10
Washington
8
30
335
9.0
12
Idaho
2
8
96
8.3
13
New Mexico
2
7
98
7.1
14
New York
23
116
1,879
6.2
15
Ohio
10
64
1,051
6.1
16
Missouri
6
33
548
6.0
17
New Jersey
5
38
656
5.8
18
South Dakota
2
5
89
5.6
18
West Virginia
2
13
233
5.6
20
Massachusetts
4
30
618
4.9
21
Rhode Island
1
5
104
4.8
22
Illinois
13
53
1,151
4.6
23
Kansas
5
12
274
4.4
24
Tennessee
6
19
440
4.3
24
Arizona
4
7
163
4.3
24
Michigan
7
34
799
4.3
24
Nebraska
1
8
188
4.3
28
North Carolina
5
21
545
3.9
29
Utah
3
4
111
3.6
30
Indiana
5
18
529
3.4
31
Texas
6
32
1,144
2.8
32
Louisiana
2
10
374
2.7
32
Minnesota
3
11
415
2.7
34
Georgia
5
13
516
2.5
35
Wisconsin
2
11
463
2.4
35
South Carolina
5
7
296
2.4
37
Arkansas
4
6
256
2.3
37
Montana
1
2
86
2.3
39
New Hampshire
1
2
96
2.1
40
Kentucky
2
7
383
1.8
41
Virginia
3
6
480
1.3
42
Pennsylvania
7
16
1,348
1.2
43
Oklahoma
2
3
324
0.9
44
Alabama
3
3
395
0.8
45
Iowa
0
0
358
0.0
45
Mississippi
0
0
284
0.0
45
North Dakota
0
0
84
0.0
45
Vermont
0
0
56
0.0
45
Delaware
0
0
48
0.0
45
Alaska
0
0
27
0.0
 
Total
243
1,071
20,884
5.1

Note: Total number of seats calculated by adding the number of seats allocated to each state in the region each election cycle. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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