Oregon is usually the Cascadian state best known for its political "firsts." But with today’s inauguration of Christine Gregoire as governor and with two female US Senators in office, Washington marked its own “first” as the first US state to have women holding the three top posts in state government.

It’s not surprising that Washington was the first to reach this milestone. For the past decade, the state has boasted the highest percentage of female legislators in the US, and it currently has a female majority on a state Supreme Court (five out of nine), and women serving as both the House and Senate Majority Leaders. Washington’s share of women in the state legislature-33 percent-far surpasses the share in the federal legislature (16 percent).

The participation of women in government is a good indicator of the overall standing of women: countries that have a high percentage of women in government-like Sweden and the Netherlands-also tend to rank high in the UN’s Human Development Index (pdf, women-in-government rankings on page 96).

Sweden and the Netherlands—where Sightline draws its goal for the Cascadia Scorecard population indicator, another proxy for the well-being of women overall—enjoy equality not only in government representation, but also in the workplace, education, and in access to health care. Washington’s milestone is one sign of the region moving closer to this level of equality for all of its residents.

P.S./Update: Among Oregon’s firsts were the first secret ballot, first to make beaches public property, and the first bottle bill, as referenced here and here.