When the 51st Utah Legislature convenes next month there will be two more women in the House than the year before, one less in the Senate.

But while women have made progress in the Legislature over the past several decades, Utah still ranks 39th in the nation in the percent of women in state lawmaking bodies, just behind West Virginia, a national study says.Not a very good showing.

"Women in Utah are still traditionally minded," says Rep. Christine Fox, R-Lehi, who will become majority leader in the House come January, the second most powerful job in the 75-member body.

"They believe their families are very important and, I think, are more concerned about family matters and raising children than men. It's hard to find the time, to take the time away from family, to serve. Men are more willing to do that" in Utah, says Fox.

Fox is an exception. Appointed to the House in 1987 when her husband, Rep. Merrill Fox, was killed in a farming accident, Fox has raised her children, run a family business and now attends law school at Brigham Young University while moving up the ranks of leadership in the House and winning re-election four times.

"Women are making progress politically in Utah," Fox says. "Attitudes about public service for women are changing. But we have a ways to go."

For a number of years there were no women in the 29-member Senate. Former Sen. Frances Farley, D-Salt Lake, broke into the old boys club in the late 1970s. In 1991 and 1992 three women served at one time in the Senate, making up 10 percent of the body.

But in 1993, former Sen. Karen Shepherd, D-Salt Lake, left to serve in the U.S. House and this past year, GOP Sen. Delpha Baird was defeated in a Republican primary by a man. Sen. Millie Peterson, D-West Valley City, barely hung on in November's Republican wave to win re-election to her seat. So, come January, Peterson will be the only woman in the Senate.

While female legislators have close personal relationships and are very supportive of each other, says Fox, they "are so diverse a group that we've never formed a women's caucus or anything like that - we just aren't that similar philosophically."

Besides Baird in the Senate, two incumbent female House members lost in 1994. Rep. Nancy Lyon, R-Bountiful, was defeated by a man in a bitter GOP primary election in June. And Rep. Sara Eubank, D-Holladay, was defeated by Republican Darlene Gubler in the November election.

However, 11 incumbent female House members won re-election and they're joined by newcomers Loretta Baca, D-Salt Lake; Sue Lockman, R-Kearns; and Gubler, R-Holladay. Female House members' numbers grew from 12 in 1994 to 14 in 1995. Last year there were eight Republican women in the House, four female Democrats. In 1995 there will be 10 women Republicans and four female Democrats.

But while gaining two women in the House in 1995, Utah still lags behind most of the rest of the states, a post-election study by the Center for the American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University shows.

The study shows that as far as state legislatures are concerned, 1994 definitely wasn't the Year of the Woman. About the same number of women across the 50 states were elected to legislatures, but the mix definitely changed. In keeping with Republican victories across the nation, GOP women increased their legislative ranks by 87 in total, and Democrats lost 104 seats held by women.

In the 50 states, women hold 17.1 percent of Senate seats, 21.9 percent of state House or Assembly seats. In Utah, women hold just 3.4 percent of Senate seats and 18 percent of House seats. According to Deseret News/KSL pollster Dan Jones & Associates, women make up about 51 percent of Utah's population.

The Rutgers' study found female legislative candidates across the nation are quite successful. In 1994, 59 percent of female legislative candidates won, compared to a 58 percent success ratio in 1992.

That's not the case in Utah.

Here, only Peterson won election in the Senate, a 50 percent success ratio in the general election for women (Democrat Lou Shurtliff lost in a Weber County race) but only a 16 percent success ratio if you include female candidates who lost in party conventions or the June primary.

Forty-six percent of female Democratic and Republican House candidates won in November's election. The lower success ratio in Utah House races by females is in part colored by the high number of Democratic women running for the House, most of whom lost in the GOP sweep. Of 16 major party women candidates who lost general election House races, 15 were Democrats.