Welcome to Peoria Magazine’s December edition, in which we introduce some of the most influential women in central Illinois and highlight the contributions they have made and continue to, often without the recognition they deserve.
But first things first. We would like to acknowledge Peoria Magazine’s very first woman of influence, Jan Wright, who helped launch the magazine with her husband in 1989 and published it for more than 30 years. The Women of Influence (WOI) issue was her idea, and we are happy to perpetuate a great tradition.
Our five Women of Influence for 2022—Linda Daley, Barb Drake, Lisa Gates, Pam Howe and Nikki Romain—have shaped and are shaping this community in some very profound ways, as strong and willful women going back to Lydia Moss Bradley uniquely have in Peoria.
That should come as no surprise, as arguably most people of any level of success have, somewhere along the way, been molded in a positive way by a strong woman. On a personal note, I was raised by one, along with a couple of sisters who gave not an inch in our streetball games. Throughout my career, I have worked with and for some very independent, decisive, accomplished women—alongside Barb Drake during a decades-long newspaper journey, with Lesley Matuszak (WOI, Class of 2013) now at WTVP/Peoria Magazine. Then I went and married someone—hi Joann —who rarely hesitates to point me in a certain daily direction (the right one, of course).
I owe—we owe—a debt to all of them.
Our WOI honorees this year range in age from mid-40s to mid-70s, but despite the different generations in which they rose through the ranks, there are some patterns in play here.
They were “influencers” before that became a thing, and it’s not a label they necessarily embrace. All, in one form or another, faced obstacles to their advancement—that infamous “glass ceiling” that may at various times have seemed like cement—and they found inventive ways to go over or under or around or through it. They have never stopped proving themselves.
Admirers describe “dominant forces” with “unparalleled dedication,” for whom “there is no such thing as impossible.”
In short, they have been get-it-done groundbreakers.
To a person, they own a love for the region they now call home, whether they grew up here or adopted it as adults. And they desire to pay it forward to future generations—to young women, to be sure, but as role models for young men, too—to be the sturdy shoulders that others can stand upon. As Pam Howe advises, “Be good, do well, and do right.”
For a few, this recognition is long overdue. As with our Local Legends earlier this year, it’s a wonder some weren’t chosen before. The Peoria area is better, healthier, more enlightened for them having applied their talents here.
The paths they’ve paved are now being traveled by others. In this issue, you will read about women taking new leadership roles and making big differences on our farms, in our museums, in our restaurants, on our stages, and in our bookstores.
Beyond that, the year has flown by for Peoria Magazine as we unveil this final issue of 2022. We have put Thanksgiving to bed, and now we look forward to Christmas if not to the cold weather that accompanies it. We have it all in this issue, including reindeer and talking Christmas trees. Meanwhile, nobody writes more eloquently or knowledgeably about our holiday traditions and their origins than Jack Gilligan.
Happy holidays, and enjoy.