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As a state which valued tradition and governance by landowners Virginia was slow to acknowledge or accept that women had a role in politics. It was thought that women should confine themselves only to domestic matters. Since 1920 Virginia has had women serving in the General Assembly , but it is still among the states that has never elected a female governor nor a lieutenant governor.
Of the women who have run for the General Assembly, the first step on the escalator to higher office, they fall into three time periods. In the first period were the Early Ones 1924-1934 , followed by the Two Party era 1954-2016, and the Trump Era candidates 2017-present. No women were elected from 1934-1953 when the Byrd Organization controlled the selection of democratic candidates for office under one party rule.
In 1920 women got the right to vote. Since Virginia’s General Assembly did not consider that voting was a proper role for women it did not ratify the nineteenth amendment until 1952. This in no way deterred Sarah Lee Fain of Norfolk or Helen T. Henderson of Buchanan from running for a seat in the House of Delegates. Both were elected in 1924. These women were part of the first era from 1924-1934 when only six women served.
Between 1954-2017 Virginia became a competitive two-party state. Beginning in 1954 with the election of Kathryn H. Stone (D) of Arlington women have served continuously in the General Assembly. During this period Yvonne Miller (D) became the first African American elected to the House of Delegates and later to the state senate. Charlotte K. Giesen was the first Republican female elected in 1958.
The 2017 elections for the House of Delegates saw a record number of women seek office. Of the twelve newly elected women eleven were democrats and one was a republican. For many of these women this was their first campaign for elected office. With women reaching a high of thirty-eight seats out of the 140 seats the good ol’ boys club is being seriously challenged. Of the twenty-seven percent women new members include two Latinas, one Vietnamese and one female of Filipino descent.
Women from both the democratic and republican party are now represented in the General Assembly. Although women have chaired committees they have not attained the leadership position of Speaker of the House of Delegates.
The list of current members follows: