Nevada becomes first state in U.S. with majority-female legislature

Thursday, February 7, 2019

On Monday, Nevada became the first state in the United States to begin a state legislative session in which more than half of the elected officials were women, at 50.8 percent.

The capitol building in Carson City, Nevada.
Image: Urban~commonswiki.

State Senator Patricia Ann Spearman remarked, "It's been a long, hard fight. I'm starting to see some of the fruits of not just my labor, but the labor of so many other people whose names I don't know," further remarking, "Women in Nevada have said, 'It's time to do away with the patriarchy that that holds people down. It's just time to do away with it.'" Democrat Spearman, a minister and former Army colonel, was first elected to the state senate in 2012 when she was about 57.

Newly elected Assemblywoman Selena Torres said, "It's really exciting to be part of this female majority, but also to be a Latina sitting in that majority[...] And when you have students that are recognizing, maybe for the first time, that they too have the ability to be involved and run for office, it truly highlights the importance."

According to Rutgers University political scholar Kelly Dittmar, "Women hold fewer than 30 percent of state legislative seats across the country, fewer than 25 percent of congressional seats, so getting to 50 percent in any one place is something significant." Dittmar went on to add, "If we want to see parity, it means that we also need to increase the number of Republican women, because we're not going to get to gender parity in most places if we don't fare better in both parties." Among women serving in state legislatures nationwide, about 70 percent belong to the Democratic party.

A Republican Assemblywoman, Jill Tolles, also commented on party disparity among female candidates: "Before I ran for office I did look at the makeup and think, 'There's just not as many females in the Republican Party, and how do we change that?'"

Colorado also has a female majority in its lower house but not in its state legislature overall. New Hampshire also once had a female majority in one house but does not have one now. In the country overall, women hold about 28 percent of legislative seats.

The United States has both a federal-level legislative body, made up of the Senate and House of Representatives, which make laws applicable to the entire country; and separate state and local legislatures, which make laws applicable only to that specific state or other district.