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Some Notable Women
in Los Angeles History

Women in Los Angeles County History

Women in Los Angeles County history. Top L to R: Biddy Mason, Dr. Elizabeth Follansbee, Amelia Earhart.
Bottom L to R: Katherine Cheung, Rosalind Wiener Wyman, Gloria Molina.

(Listed Alphabetically)

Margaret Q. Adams – first woman deputy sheriff in U.S. (1912).

Ethel Percy Andrus – first woman principal of a California high school (Abraham Lincoln High School, 1916) and founder of National Retired Teachers Association (1947) and AARP (1958).

Romana Acosta Bañuelos - first Hispanic Treasurer of the United States (1971).

Cynthia Barbee – first woman to become a firefighter in Los Angeles County (1983).

Charlotta Spears Bass – African American newspaper publisher (California Eagle, 1912-1951) and civil rights activist.

Sheila Levrant De Bretteville – graphic artist, designer and educator who founded first women’s design program at California Institute of the Arts (1971) and co-founded the Woman's Building (1973), dedicated to women's education and culture. Co-founded Feminist Studio Workshop (1973) with Judy Chicago and Arlene Raven (listed below).

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke – first women to represent any portion of Los Angeles County in Congress (1973) and first African American on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (1979).

Octavia E. Butler - first successful African American woman science fiction writer (1976-2005). Among awards received by this Pasadena native was the Hugo Award, Locus Awards, Nebula Award and MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award.

Dr. Rose Bullard - first and only woman physician to be elected as President of the Los Angeles County Medical Association (1903). She was a distinguished nationally-recognized surgeon and was one of the first physicians to employ spinal anesthesia during labor.

Aurora Castillo – co-founder of Mothers of East Los Angeles (1984).

Dorothy Chandler – civic leader and philanthropist. Spearheaded fundraising for Music Center (1955-1964).

Lily Lee Chen – former Mayor of Monterey Park and first Chinese American woman mayor in U.S. (1984).

Katherine Cheung – first Asian American woman aviator (1931-1942).

Judy Chu – first Chinese American woman in Congress (2009).

Paula Crisostomo – at age 17, helped lead student walkouts by Latino students at East Los Angeles area high schools (1968) to protest substandard education and discrimination.

Amelia Earhart – one of America's great aviation pioneers (1921-1937).

Katherine Edson – first woman appointed to a major California state post (California Industrial Welfare Commission, 1916).

Dr. Elizabeth Follansbee – Southern California’s first woman physician (1883).

Clara Shortridge Foltz – California’s first woman attorney (1878), nation's first woman deputy district attorney (Los Angeles County, 1910), first woman candidate for California governor (1930).

Helen Liu Fong – architect who was an important contributor to the Googie architecture movement (1951-1979).

Dora Haynes – led establishment of both the California League of Woman Voters and its Los Angeles Chapter (1919).

Josephine Heckman – first woman on Pasadena City Council (1975) and first woman mayor of Pasadena (1980).

Katie Hill – first LGBTQ congresswoman from California (2018).

Minerva Hamilton Hoyt – desert preservationist and founder of International Desert Conservation League (1930) who helped to create Joshua Tree National Monument (1936).

Louise Huebner – astrologer, author and only person ever appointed to be an "Official Witch" ("Official Witch of Los Angeles County" by Los Angeles County Supervisor Ernest Debs, 1968).

Bella Lewitzky – founder of internationally acclaimed Bella Lewitzky Dance Company (1966).

Estelle Lawton Lindsey – first woman elected to L.A. City Council (1915) and, although only for one day, first woman mayor of L.A. and of any major U.S. city (1915).

Biddy Mason – former slave who became a pioneer entrepreneur, landowner, philanthropist and co-founder of Los Angeles First African Methodist-Episcopal (AME) Church, first African American church in Los Angeles (1872).

Hattie McDaniel – actress and entertainer who, for her role in the motion picture Gone With the Wind, became the first African American to receive an Academy Award (1940).

Aimee Semple McPherson – founder of Angelus Temple and Church of the Four Square Gospel (1923).

Dr. Henrietta Mears – renowned Sunday School curriculum pioneer (1928-1963) named as one of the outstanind religious leaders of the 20th century by Christianity Today Magazine.

Gloria Molina – first Latina elected to the California State Legislature (1982) and L.A. City Council (1987) and first woman on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (1991).

Beverly O’Neill – first woman mayor of Long Beach (1994).

Mary Pickford – actress (1909-1933) and co-founder of United Artists (1919).

Arlene Raven – major figure in Feminist Art Movement. Co-founded Feminist Studio Workshop (1973) with Judy Chicago and Sheila Levrant de Bretteville (listed above).

Marilyn Jorgenson Reece – first woman civil engineer in California (1954) and designer of L.A. freeway projects.

Sally Ride – astronaut and first American woman in space (1983).

“Rosie the Riveter” – thousands of unnamed women who sustained the aviation war industry during WWII (1942-1945).

Georgia Ann Robinson – one of the first African American woman police officers (1919).

Caroline Severance – abolitionist, suffragist, women's organizer and founder of the first Los Angeles Women's Club (1878) and Friday Morning Club (1891). Introduced kindergarten movement to Los Angeles and helped to found the Los Angeles Public Library.

Mitzi Shore – club owner who co-founded The Comedy Store (1972), helping to make Los Angeles a center of "stand-up" comedy.

Dr. Vada Watson Sommerville - first African American woman licensed to practice dentistry in California (1918) and co-founder of the Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP (1914) and historic Dunbar Hotel (1927).

Christine Sterling – leader of Olvera Street restoration (1926-1930).

Harriet Williams Russell Strong – agriculturist, rancher, inventor, historical preservationist, activist, one of first two woman (along with city librarian Tessa Kelso) members of the L.A. Chamber of Commerce (1893). First woman delegate to the Chamber of Commerce of the United States (representing Los Angeles and Whittier Chambers, 1918). First woman trustee of University of Southern California Law School (1900).

Loretta Thompson-Glickman - first African American woman Mayor of Pasadena (1982) and first for a U.S. city with a population larger than 100,000). First African American woman volunteer member of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.

Toypurina – 18th century Kizh (Gabrieleno) Indian medicine woman who was a leader of a rebellion against the Spanish at the Mission San Gabriel (1785). Only known Native American woman to lead a violent revolt against Europeans/Americans.

Nancy Valverde – Chicana and lesbian icon in East Los Angeles who stood up against police abuse and harassment (1948-1950s) of men and women who openly wore gender-nonconforming grooming and clothing.

Dr. Sarah Vasen - first Jewish woman physician in L.A. (1904) and first superintendent and resident physician of Kaspare Cohn Hospital (1905, later Cedars-Sinai Hospital).

Alice Stebbin Wells – first woman police officer in U.S. (Los Angeles Police Department, 1910).

Anna May Wong – first Chinese American film actress to achieve international fame (1919-1961).

Esther Wong – restauraunteur and music promoter (1978-1986), nicknamed the "Godmother of Punk."

Mary Julia Workman – “Catholic conscience of L.A.,” social work pioneer, social activist and kindergarten education pioneer. Founded Brownson House Settlement Association (1901) with the mission to help urban poor of all races. Awarded Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal by Pope Pius XI (1926), first in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Libby Evans Wright – first woman president of the Tournament of Roses (2005).

Rosalind Wiener Wyman – youngest person elected to L.A. City Council (age 22, 1953) and led efforts to bring the Dodgers to Los Angeles (1953-1958).

Carmen Margarita Zapata – actress and called "First Lady of the Hispanic Theater," co-founded Bilingual Foundation of the Arts (1973).