state legislatures

West Virginia Leads States With Boys’ Club Legislatures

Meetings in the West Virginia legislature aren’t completely male-attended, but they are close. Photo: Perry Bennett/West Virginia LRIC

Last month Nevada got some attention for becoming the first state with a legislature in which women comprised the majority. A full report from the National Conference of Legislatures tells the rest of the story: state-by-state percentages of women in the legislatures of all 50 states.

Joining Nevada in the honorable ranks of states with at least 40 percent female legislatures are Colorado (47 percent), Oregon (41.1 percent), and Washington (40.1 percent). At the other end of the spectrum are the bottom five, where legislatures are still mainly boys’ clubs: West Virginia (14.2 percent), Tennessee (14.4 percent), Louisiana (14.6 percent), Mississippi (14.9 percent), and Wyoming (15.7 percent), with Alabama just off pace at 15.7 percent. Perhaps not coincidentally, the legislatures at the very top are Democrat-controlled (though fifth-ranking Arizona is Republican-controlled) and the bottom-feeders are all Republican-controlled.

In the middle, though, states don’t necessarily fit the partisan or geographical stereotypes. Liberal and heavily Democratic Massachusetts (28.5 percent) and California (29.2 percent) rank below conservative Republican Georgia (30.5 percent). That surprises me, as a veteran of Georgia politics and government who remembers old-timers around the State Capitol telling tales of a 24-hour poker game for lawmakers maintained by a nude prostitute throughout legislative sessions back in the day. I am reasonably sure said legislators were men, and the prostitute was a woman. Sometimes things do change for the better.

West Virginia Leads States With Boys’ Club Legislatures