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When I was in grade school, my grandmother told me she would never run for an elected office because “they’d never elect a woman.”

When I was a teenager, my Dad told me that I could do any job that a man could do and as a young adult, he encouraged me to be one of the first women to bowl in a men’s league at Plamor Lanes.

I remember my early days in radio when a male host told me to make him coffee when I was standing in a room of male peers my equal and I recall getting up enough nerve to ask for my first raise only to have the manager tell me that my salary was pretty good compared to what his wife made as a grocery store clerk, a fact that had nothing to do with the skill-set required for the position in which I was employed. And I can still remember how it felt when I landed my first manager’s job, elevated over my peers and learned for the first time that I had been making less than my male co-workers for doing the same job before my promotion.

These are my stories. There are no sit-ins or marches or great stories of persecution. I have worked in the deep South where I learned to say “yes, sir,” but for the most part I would say that I have been pretty darn lucky. Yet these stories have shaped me into the hard-working person that I am. It is through this experience that I find myself rooting for other women to be their best and to receive everything they deserve. It’s not that I don’t root for men, quite the contrary, but occasionally I recognize a few people trying to make their way in the world with obstacles thrown at them, which seems to make their success even sweeter. Today’s column highlights two that happen to be women. I'm writing in a week that kicked off with Hollywood’s women coming together in support of sexual harassment / assault victims, so the fact they are women helping women seems relevant.

Maggie Gehlsen was named Miss Muscatine on Saturday night. I first met Maggie several years ago when she volunteered to be a model at the bridal expo I was coordinating. We connected on social media and have stayed connected and I am grateful for the experience of watching her blossom into a thoughtful and successful young business woman. She went off to be an Alabama Crimsonette (it’s at this point in the column that I should throw in a "Roll Tide" for the college play-off champions) and through life’s ups and downs, also became a victim of sexual assault. But she hasn’t let it define her. Instead, she’s fighting back and has become a vocal advocate, helping women of all ages in her role as a life coach and mentor. In her first social media post as Miss Muscatine, she said she will be working to bring preventative and educational programming for sexual violence to Muscatine. I am proud to have Maggie represent our fine city and look forward to reporting on her future success.

The second, Cindy Carver, experienced every wedding professional’s worst nightmare on Saturday as the fire at her facility, The Rendezvous Banquet Hall & Catering, threatened the plans of a couple holding their reception there that night. The family of the couple, the community and many local businesses rallied to pull their event off. Further, her insurance policy allows her to keep her remaining bookings even if she needs to secure an alternate venue but expects to have her doors open to the public very, very soon and will even be catering from the facility yet this week. But it’s her spirit as I chatted with her by phone yesterday that makes Cindy stand out from the crowd. Cindy’s dedication to the bride on Saturday speaks to the hard-working, selfless spirit that makes her a joy to work with and for.

I’m honored to highlight these two women today with our Journal pages.

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