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Rob Curley: When an astronaut, a congresswoman and a senator join forces, unlikely yet remarkable conversations can happen

In 2019, with a little help from Bank of America, The Spokesman-Review began honoring amazing women from across our region in a way we knew had to be different. The focus would be on those who never sought the spotlight, simply doing what they did for the right reasons.

We wanted to celebrate them with front-page stories, beautiful portraits and an event that would pack a theater, showing them what community pride and appreciation felt like.

That first event packed the Bing Crosby Theater as we brought in one of the highest-ranking woman executives from both Google and Twitter, as well as a Murrow Award-winning journalist from NPR. And our honorees came on stage and received the standing ovation they deserved.

A worldwide pandemic may have stopped our annual Northwest Passages book club event, but didn’t stop our commitment to it. But since we haven’t been able to hold our big Women of the Year since that first one in 2019, we wanted to make sure we came back in 2022 with something no one would believe.

This year’s event will be Monday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. at the Bing, featuring three powerhouse women from Washington who couldn’t be more different: Sen. Maria Cantwell, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and astronaut Anne McClain. The evening will be hosted by Spokane City Councilmember Betsy Wilkerson. Tickets are $7 and available at, or in person on the night of the event.

Don’t come if you want to talk about decisive politics, because that is the opposite of what this extraordinary event will be about. The four of them will focus on developing generations of female leaders from across our state, how we emphasize mentorship and the ability to solve community problems when we realize we all have more in common than we have different.

And my guess is they each might raise a little hell. But there’s always a place for good trouble when we’re talking about equity issues, so that’s more of a feature than a flaw.

Just as important, we are going to celebrate the women you are going to read about in The Spokesman-Review over the next 1½ weeks. That explains why a sitting senator, a sitting member of Congress and an astronaut named to be on NASA’s first mission to the moon in more than 50 years are all coming to be on the same stage at the same time.

I hope you all will join us for a night that really only could happen in Spokane.

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