My first real job out of law school was as a legislative advocate for California’s ACLU affiliates at the State Capitol in the very early 1980’s. A lot of things were changing. Not only was there an increase in the size of the Legislature’s legislative Black caucus but there was also the burgeoning of the Legislative Latino Caucus. Even more intriguing was the gender shifting as more women got themselves elected to the California State Assembly and the State Senate.
Now, in the not-so-distant past, there were so few women in the state Senate that they shared a key to a small bathroom just off the Senate floor reserved for the ladies. That would change and a proper lounge was eventually constructed, named for Sen. Rose Ann Vuich, the first holder of that special bathroom key.
This in memoriam essay is my response to news of the death on May 14, 2023, of the Hon, Gloria Molina. Molina was the first Latina elected to the California State Assembly. In her long political career, she would also be the first Latina elected to the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which now consists of five women. Assembly Member Molina’s office was some place I could go to during my time as an ACLU legislative advocate, to check in and chill for a bit.
Sacramento is different in 2023 than it was in was in 1987. I was struck by how different in 2020 while participating in a meeting at the office of Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes. Not only was I not the only female professional in the room but I was also not the only person of color. I shared this observation with others at the meeting. Most of them were young enough to have been my kids or my college or workshop students. Were the 80’s really that long ago?
The other story that deserves to be shared is how Assembly Member Molina was supported by what was known as the Sacramento Womens’ Campaign Fund, one of the precursors to what is now known as Emily’s List. Assemblymember Molina explained at a lunch meeting of the WCF how she with friends and colleagues, sister Latina activists, had an intense heart to heart meeting to consider who had a background that would survive the expected vicious personal attacks that were part of running for office.
Molina was selected to run for the Assembly seat which she won in 1982. She would serve for five years through 1987 shift her political career to the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She left a legacy of Latina leadership in California government that still serves many people in many parts of California as a community. Gloria Molina was one of those women and legislative staff who broke through a series of glass ceilings and who deserve to be recognized and remembered.
CCWRO extends our condolences to Ms.Molina’s family and friends.
See Gloria Molina, trailblazing LA politician, dies after battle with cancer, family says BY JOSH DUBOSE – 05/15/23 1:54 PM ET