Party and Political Recruitment

Women and Access to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives


  • Robert E. O'Connor



In comparison with other states, Pennsylvania has elected few women to its legislature. This research explores the role of party in determining access to the Pennsylvania House; this focus emerged after research eliminated other explanations (e.g., voter apathy, difficulty in raising money) for the paucity of women. All 37 freshman House members of the class of 1983 were interviewed to explore how they reached Harrisburg. In learning what factors accounted for their success, this study seeks to identify obstacles to the recruitment of women. Four distinct patterns of recruitment emerged, based upon party activities and prior political office. In each of these patterns, parties have a crucial role. One factor limiting female recruitment is that their political participation has been more focused toward non-partisan activities and groups concerned with specific issues rather than with parties. Political women who devote their energies to issues instead of party reduce their likelihood of becoming state representatives.