We Celebrate Our Leaders

close the gap CA honors California’s African American women legislators current and past.  They expanded economic opportunity and access to healthcare, improved public schools and protected civil rights. These women were and are among the most influential leaders in CA and the nation. Here are some interesting facts:

  • Only 14 African American women have been elected to the legislature, beginning with the election of Assemblywoman Yvonne Burke in 1966. Burke was the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from the west, and the first Congresswoman to give birth while in office and take maternity leave.
  • Seven of these 14 legislators went on to serve in the U.S. Congress; and three still serve today: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congresswoman Karen Bass.
  • Congresswoman Karen Bass has the distinction as the first African American woman in U.S. history to serve as Speaker of a state legislative body when she became the 67th Speaker and 2nd woman Speaker of the CA Assembly.
  • Today only 1 African American woman – Senator Holly J. Mitchell – serves in the CA State Senate; and 3 African American women – Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke serve in the CA State Assembly.

There are a total of 30 women serving in the CA Legislature today; 11 women Senators and 19 Assemblywomen. See more facts comparing the number of women in the CA Legislature to a decade ago.

Click on each leader to learn more.