Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science and International Affairs

Department Chair or Program Director

Cooperman, Rosalyn

First Advisor

Rosalyn Cooperman

Major or Concentration

Political Science


Although they comprise half of the United States population, women are underrepresented as candidates and officeholders in state legislatures and Congress. This is particularly true of legislatures in southern states where women's representation is acutely low, and these states typically fall in the bottom quintile of women’s representation as tracked by the Center for American Women in Politics. Research on political efficacy by Stauffer (2021) suggests that women’s presence in elected office garners greater trust, confidence, and satisfaction in political institutions and increases their legitimacy. In the retelling of Virginia’s political history, women are often absent, despite their continued presence and significant work in the political arena. When looking at women’s presence in the Virginia General Assembly and its congressional delegation over the last several decades, it is evident that women officeholders primarily come from three areas of the state – Northern Virginia, Richmond, and the Hampton Roads area. As a diverse, growing region of southern Virginia, this research explores Hampton Roads and the women legislators it produces. I examine women’s candidacies for the Virginia General Assembly in Hampton Roads and Norfolk and the corresponding Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District from 2005 to 2023. I find that women from both parties have sought and won legislative seats in the Virginia General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. The party competitiveness of this region provides important opportunities to increase women’s representation and incentives for Virginia Democratic and Republican parties to support their candidates.