Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)


Colby College. Government Dept.




The percentage of women serving in state legislative office has nearly doubled over the past twenty years. More women have come forward as candidates and have been successful. Today, female candidates enjoy success rates and fundraising ability similar to those of male candidates. However, women are still far from equal in state legislative politics. Women do not hold a majority, or even one half, of the seats in any state legislature. Leadership positions are still male-dominated. and female officeholders are sometimes ignored by party elites. Since the 1970s. feminist activists and political scientists alike have been concerned by the paucity of women in state legislatures. A variety of factors that traditionally inhibited women's success have been identified. However, it seems as though the overall electoral structure is at least partially responsible for the under-representation of women. Incumbent legislators win their bids for re-election around 90 percent of the time. Because most incumbents are not female, the incumbency advantage is thought to be a large barrier to women's success. In recent years, proponents of tern limits have argued that a system of term limits would allow women to compete on more equal footing with men, and to increase their numbers in legislatures nationwide. The 2000 election marks four years since the first state legislative term limits went into effect in Maine and California. Using data from the past several election cycles, this paper will attempt to determine whether term limits indeed increase the number of female candidates and female officeholders in state legislatures.


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term limits, women, representation, state legislative office, female governors