by David Ammons | January 11th, 2010
Barbara Madsen has been installed as chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court, placing her at the pinnacle of the state’s judicial branch. It’s part of a remarkable story of women trailblazers in state politics and government.
Madsen, who has served on the highest court since 1992, succeeds Gerry Alexander, the longest-serving chief in state history. Madsen, in brief comments at installation ceremonies at the Temple of Justice on Monday, highlighted the contributions of women and minorities in the state bar and judiciary. Four of the nine-member Supreme Court are female; for a time, the state had a female-majority high court.
Washington has been called the best state in America for women to advance in government. The state is the first, and so far only, state to simultaneously have a woman governor and two female U.S. senators. A large percentage of the Legislature is female. The Senate and House majority leaders are women and many of the most important committee chairmanships, including budget and transportation, and major caucus posts are held by females.
Governor Gregoire has many women in her cabinet, including Labor & Industries, Social and Health Services, and Transportation. The state’s tribes have many women in leadership roles, as do cities and counties, school boards, ports and other facets of government. A number of businesses and the non-profit sector also pride themselves on breaking the glass ceiling.
PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR: Secretary of State Sam Reed, noting that this is the centennial of women achieving the right to vote in Washington, is sponsoring a free exhibit called “Moving Forward, Looking Back: Washington’s First Women in Government.” Opening ceremonies with the governor and other honorees is at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 21, but visitors are welcome in the Secretary’s office starting … now!