Women in New England Politics

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This essay addresses a serious deficiency in the literature on women and politics in the United States today: the lack of attention to regional variation and, more specifically, the absence of research on women’s representation in New England. This deficiency is particularly troubling since political analysts of all stripes typically portray New England as imbued with ideological, individual, and structural characteristics likely to lead to rates of political representation higher than the nation as a whole. This essay provides a brief history of women in politics for New England as a whole; describes the current status of women at congressional, statewide, state legislative, and municipal levels of government in each of the states (with a comparison to other regions and the nation as a whole); and analyzes the prospects for increasing women’s political representation in the region. This essay concludes that it is unlikely that the New England states will achieve anything close to parity in the higher-level offices if the numbers do not increase substantially in the city or town councils, boards of selectmen, boards of aldermen, and other local governing bodies.