Celebrate Extraordinary LA Women

From the arts to science, sports to politics, these incredible women have impacted the world

Billie Eilish at the 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Billie Eilish at the 2020 GRAMMY Awards | Photo; Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

From the arts to science, sports to politics, Los Angeles has been home to extraordinary women who have risen to the top of their fields. For generations, they've fought for the rights of others, impacted arts and culture, made great strides in the sciences, won numerous championships and much more. Whether it's Women's History Month every March, International Women's Day on March 8, or any time of the year, learn about some of the great women who were born in LA or have called the city home.

Exterior of Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House
Hollyhock House | Photo: Joshua White

Aline Barnsdall

Oil heiress Aline Barnsdall is perhaps best known as Frank Lloyd Wright's client for the Hollyhock House, the first UNESCO World Heritage site in Los Angeles. Barnsdall bought the 35-acre Olive Hill property in 1919. Construction on the home began that year and was completed in 1922.

Barnsdall donated the 11.5 acres of Barnsdall Art Park to the City of Los Angeles in 1927. In her bequest, she stipulated that the site must "forever remain a public park…for the enjoyment of the community in general [and that] no buildings be erected except for art purposes." The City of LA's Department of Cultural Affairs operates the cultural and artistic programs at Barnsdall Park, while the grounds are maintained by the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Barnsdall was also a guiding force and important financial contributor for the Hollywood Bowl, and a patron of architects Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and photographer Edmund Teske among others.

Amanda Gorman

LA native Amanda Gorman became an instant global icon with a galvanizing recitation of her poem, "The Hill We Climb," at the January 2021 inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The youngest inaugural poet in history, Gorman earned praise from Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and countless others. Following her reading, her books The Hill We Climb and Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, topped the Amazon bestseller list. A book version of her inaugural poem was released in March 2021 with a foreword by Oprah.

As part of the pregame ceremony for Super Bowl LV, Gorman delivered (via video) her original poem, "Chorus of the Captains," which was inspired by three essential workers who were the honorary captains of the coin toss. Gorman was interviewed by Michelle Obama for a TIME cover story, and was named to the TIME100 Next list - in his blurb, Miranda wrote that he's "a fan for life."

Portrait of Anna May Wong by Eugene Robert Richee for Paramount Pictures
Portrait of Anna May Wong dated Nov. 17, 1937 | Photo: Eugene Robert Richee for Paramount Pictures, Wikimedia Commons
Anna May Wong quarter
Anna May Wong quarter | Photo: U.S. Mint

Anna May Wong

Born Wong Liu Tsong in Los Angeles to second-generation Chinese Americans, Anna May Wong achieved international stardom as a film star and fashion icon. Her career spanned the silent film era, sound and color films, TV, stage and radio. Wong is widely regarded as the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star, starring with Golden Age legends like Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Baghdad (1924) and Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932).

Frustrated by the stereotypical "Dragon Lady" and "Butterfly" roles she reluctantly played in Hollywood productions, she left for Europe in 1928 and became a sensation. During this period she starred on the London stage in A Circle of Chalk with Laurence Olivier. In the late '30s, Wong starred in several B movies for Paramount Pictures - her roles depicted Chinese and Chinese Americans in a positive light. During World War II, Wong donated time and money to support China's struggle against Japan.

Wong made history in 1951 with The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, the first TV series in the U.S. to star an Asian American in the lead. In 1960, a year before her death, Wong was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Wong is one of four pioneering actresses portrayed in the "Gateway to Hollywood" sculpture at Hollywood and La Brea - the others are Dorothy Dandridge, Dolores del Río, and Mae West. In March 2020, Wong was named one of TIME's 100 Women of the Year, a list of the most influential women of the past century.

Anna May Wong made history again in October 2022, when she became the first Asian American to appear on U.S. currency with the release of the fifth American Women Quarter.

Beyoncé "On the Run" Tour in LA
Beyoncé On the Run Tour | Photo: beyonce.com


The New Yorker has described Beyoncé as "the most important and compelling popular musician of the twenty-first century ... the result, the logical end point, of a century-plus of pop." A native of Houston, Texas, Beyoncé first rose to fame as the lead singer of Destiny's Child, one of the best-selling girl groups in history. She's sold more than 330 million albums worldwide, including digital and 60 million with Destiny's Child. Queen Bey has won 32 GRAMMY Awards - more than any artist in history - and set the record for most GRAMMYs for a female artist in one night (six in 2010). In March 2020, Beyoncé was named one of TIME's 100 Women of the Year, a list of the most influential women of the past century.

Beyoncé is well-known for her activism - she described herself in Vogue as "a modern-day feminist" and has frequently spoken out about police brutality against African Americans.

A longtime ally of the LGBTQ community, Beyoncé has publicly endorsed same-sex marriage; included LGBTQ people and couples in videos for "Formation" and "All Night"; and dedicated "Halo" to the victims and survivors of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting during The Formation World Tour. In 2019, Beyoncé and Jay-Z received GLAAD’s Vanguard Award, which is presented to allies who have made a significant difference in promoting acceptance of LGBTQ people. At the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards, when Beyoncé accepted her record-breaking GRAMMY for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for Renaissance, the star-studded crowd cheered as she thanked "the queer community for your love, and for inventing the genre."

Biddy Mason
Biddy Mason | Photo: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

Biddy Mason

Bridget “Biddy” Mason was a former enslaved person who became a pioneering L.A. real estate entrepreneur and beloved philanthropist. Mason won her freedom in 1856 and settled in Los Angeles with her three daughters to work as a nurse and midwife. According to Wikipedia, Mason delivered hundreds of babies during her career and used her knowledge of herbal remedies (taught to her by other female slaves) to treat those afflicted by the smallpox epidemic, risking her own life in doing so. She lived frugally and began saving money, which she later used to acquire property and became one of the first African American women to own land in Los Angeles.

In 1872, Mason and her son-in-law, Charles Owens founded the city’s first African American church, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. Organizing meetings took place at Mason's home on Spring Street and she donated the land on which First A.M.E. was built. Mason was a savvy investor  - as Downtown LA continued to grow, her properties became prime real estate. She eventually amassed an estimated fortune of $300,000 and supported philanthropic projects like a travelers aid center and the first elementary school for African American children.

Located off Spring Street across from Grand Central Market in Downtown LA, Biddy Mason Memorial Park features an 80-foot timeline that traces her remarkable life.

Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O'Connell was born in Los Angeles on Dec. 18, 2001 and raised in Highland Park. At age 14, Billie Eilish released her debut single, "Ocean Eyes," written and produced by her brother Finneas. Less than a decade later, Eilish has received nine GRAMMY Awards, two American Music Awards, two Guinness World Records, three MTV Video Music Awards, three Brit Awards, two Golden Globes and two Academy Awards. Eilish was named to the inaugural TIME100 Next list in 2019 and the TIME 100 two years later.

Released in 2019, Eilish's first studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 and UK Albums Chart. With the album's release, Eilish broke the record for most songs by a female artist on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time, with 14. The album's fifth single, "Bad Guy", became Eilish's first number one on the Hot 100, making her the first artist born in the 21st century to release a chart-topping single. At the 62nd GRAMMY Awards in January 2020, Eilish became the youngest artist to sweep the "Big Four" categories: Album of the Year (When We All Fall Asleep), Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Bad Guy"; and Best New Artist.

At age 17, Eilish recorded the theme song for "No Time to Die," becoming the youngest artist to record a James Bond theme in the franchise's history. "No Time to Die" went on to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media, the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and the Academy Award for Best Original Song, making Eilish the first person born in the 2000s to win an Oscar.

Eilish's sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, was released in July 2021 - it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and topped the charts in more than two dozen countries. A concert film, Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles was released on Disney+ in September. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Patrick Osborne, the movie blends live action and animation and features performances of all 16 tracks from the album, with Eilish accompanied by Finneas and the LA Phil. Filming took place at the Hollywood Bowl without a live audience.

In 2023, Eilish released "What Was I Made For?", featured on the soundtrack to the blockbuster Barbie movie. "What Was I Made For?" won Best Original Song at the Golden Globes; Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media at the GRAMMY Awards; and Best Original Song at the 96th Academy Awards, making Eilish the youngest two-time Oscar winner.

Billie Jean King
Photo: Billie Jean King, Facebook

Billie Jean King

Widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Long Beach native Billie Jean King learned to play on local courts, and honed her skills at the Los Angeles Tennis Club in Hancock Park. She made her pro debut at age 15.

During her 22-year career, King won 39 major titles: 12 in singles, 16 in women's doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles. King's French Open victory in 1972 gave her a career Grand Slam, which includes a record 20 titles at Wimbledon (six in singles, 10 in women's doubles, four in mixed doubles). For three years, she was the U.S. captain in the Federation Cup and a member of seven victorious teams. In 2020, the Fed Cup was renamed the Billie Jean King Cup in her honor.

King's many accolades include the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award in 1972 (shared with UCLA basketball coach John Wooden); induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987; induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1990; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In 2013, King was among the first class of inductees into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.

Her hometown has honored King with the Billie Jean King Tennis Center at Recreation Park, and the Billie Jean King Main Library in Downtown Long Beach. King's alma mater, Cal State LA, named its 11-acre athletic facility the Billie Jean King Sports Complex. A bronze statue of King was unveiled on campus in 2022 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Title IX - King testified on behalf of its passage.

A longtime advocate of women's rights, King is acclaimed as a pioneer for gender equality and social justice. In 1973, she won the famous "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match against Bobby Riggs, a former World No. 1 in the 1940s. That same year, King founded the Women's Tennis Association and in 1974 she founded the nonprofit Women's Sports Foundation.

In 2018, King and her partner Ilana Kloss were announced as minority owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They also became part of the ownership group of the WNBA's LA Sparks. Two years later, the couple announced they were investing in Angel City FC, which made its National Women's Soccer League debut in 2022.

Carol Kaye

One of the all-time great session bassists, Carol Kaye played on an estimated 10,000 recordings during a career that spans more than 50 years. Born in Everett, Washington, Kaye and her parents moved to Wilmington, the neighborhood north of San Pedro, when she was age 7. A guitar prodigy, Kaye played with several LA jazz groups in the 1950s. Her big break came when producer Robert "Bumps" Blackwell stopped by one of her gigs looking for a guitarist for Sam Cooke's version of "Summertime." She quickly became an in-demand studio guitarist, playing on hits like "La Bamba" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'." When a bass player was a no-show for a session at Capitol Records, Kaye was asked to fill in - she had found her signature instrument.

Kaye's greatest acclaim came as the only female member of the Wrecking Crew, the famed group of LA studio musicians that played on numerous hits of the 1960s and '70s. Kaye played on classics like Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'", Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High", The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, The Monkees "Last Train to Clarksville", Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On", Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman"' and many, many more.

Burned out on session work, Kaye turned to movie and TV work - that's her on the themes from M.A.S.H. and Shaft; the Bullitt soundtrack and the themes from TV's Mission: Impossible and Hawaii Five-O.

The Ford
Photo: Gennia Cui, The Ford

Christine Wetherill Stevenson

An heiress of the Pittsburgh Paint Company and a patron of the arts, Christine Wetherill Stevenson had a vision to open an open-air theatre and produce her own plays. Stevenson realized her dream in 1920, when she opened the Pilgrimage Theatre and staged The Pilgrimage Play, her adaptation of the life of Christ. Stevenson died suddenly in 1922 - the Hollywood Pilgrimage Memorial Monument (aka the Great Hollywood Cross) was erected in her memory a year later. Her play would continue to be performed every summer until 1929, when the original wooden structure was destroyed by a brush fire in October.

A new theatre, built on the same site with poured concrete and designed to evoke the gates of Jerusalem, opened in 1931. The Pilgrimage Play was performed there until 1964, interrupted only by World War II. The land was deeded to L.A. County in 1941. In 1976, the Pilgrimage Theatre was renamed the John Anson Ford Theatre in honor of the late L.A. County Supervisor and his important contributions to the arts in Los Angeles. Today, The Ford is one of L.A.'s top outdoor venues, hosting a wide range of cultural performances.

Corita Kent

Frances Elizabeth Kent was born in Iowa and attended Blessed Sacrament School, where the nuns noticed her artistic talent. Kent's family moved to LA, and at age 18 she entered the Roman Catholic order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and took the name Sister Mary Corita. Years later, she would be known worldwide as simply Sister Corita.

Kent took classes at Otis (now Otis College of Art and Design) and Chouinard Art Institute, earned her BA at Immaculate Heart College, and a master's in Art History from the University of Southern California (USC). From 1938 to 1968, Kent lived and worked in the Immaculate Heart Community. She taught art at the Immaculate Heart College and became the chair of its art department in 1964.

Sister Corita's unique teaching methods included tasking students with creating 200 drawings or drawing their arm for three hours without looking at it. By the early 1950s, progressive Catholics from across the country were being sent to Los Angeles to attend her classes. Thanks to the school's proximity to LA's creative community, Sister Corita was able to invite renowned special guests like Alfred Hitchcock, Buckminster Fuller, Charles and Ray Eames, John Cage and Saul Bass.

Self-taught in printmaking, Sister Corita quickly rose to national prominence and eventually exhibited at more than 230 shows across the country. In 1962, Sister Corita viewed Andy Warhol's first solo exhibition, Campbell's Soup Cans, at the Ferus Gallery on La Cienega. Sister Corita was inspired by the burgeoning Pop Art movement - her art became increasingly political throughout the '60s, with subjects ranging from anti-Vietnam War protests to social justice and women's rights.

Growing tensions with the LA archdiocese - and Cardinal James McIntyre in particular - led to Corita Kent returning to secular life and moving to Boston. Kent continued to create art for the rest of her life, including the "Love" stamp that was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1985 and sold more than 700 million stamps. At the time of her death in 1986, Kent had created nearly 800 serigraphs, thousands of watercolors, and countless public and private commissions.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion | Photo: Evelyn Hitchcock

Dorothy Buffum Chandler

One of the largest performing arts centers in the country, The Music Center includes four extraordinary venues (Ahmanson Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum, Walt Disney Concert Hall) and is the home of four renowned resident companies – LA Phil, LA Opera, Center Theatre Group and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The Music Center is also recognized for its acclaimed dance programming, Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center.

The Pavilion is named for Dorothy Buffum Chandler, wife of Los Angeles Times publisher Norman Chandler. A legendary patron of the arts, Mrs. Chandler almost single-handedly rescued the Hollywood Bowl from financial collapse with her “Save the Bowl” fundraising concerts in 1951. Beginning in 1955, Chandler raised almost $20 million in private donations for the construction of a permanent home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion opened on Dec. 6, 1964 with 28-year-old Zubin Mehta conducting the LA Phil in a program that included Jascha Heifetz, considered by many to be the greatest violinist of all time. Chandler was featured on the cover of the Dec. 18, 1964 issue of TIME magazine, which described her fundraising efforts as "perhaps the most impressive display of virtuoso money-raising and civic citizenship in the history of U.S. womanhood." The Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum opened in April 1967. Chandler was involved in the planning of Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in 2003. Though Chandler passed away in 1997, her cultural legacy will continue to benefit LA for generations to come.

Edith Head and Gloria Swanson
Edith Head and Gloria Swanson | Photo: Oscars.org
Edith Head with her eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design
Edith Head with her eight Academy Awards | Photo: Oscars.org

Edith Head

Born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, Edith Head is renowned as one of the greatest costume designers in movie history. Head began her professional career teaching Spanish at the Hollywood School for Girls. After taking drawing classes at the famed Chouinard Art Institute in Westlake, Head was hired as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures, where she would work for 43 years before moving to Universal Pictures in 1967.

Head began in the silent era and had risen to the top ranks of Hollywood costume designers by the 1930s. In 1938, she became the first woman to head the costume department at a major Hollywood movie studio. Head captured the attention of moviegoers with Dorothy Lamour's sarong in The Hurricane (1937) and Ginger Rogers' mink and sequin gown in Lady in the Dark (1944).

Her collaborative design process made Head a favorite of the top actresses of the 1940s and '50s, including: Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity, 1944), Bette Davis (All About Eve, 1950), Olivia de Havilland (The Heiress, 1949), Gloria Swanson (Sunset Boulevard, 1950), Elizabeth Taylor (A Place in the Sun, 1951) and her Oscar-winning designs for Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953) and Sabrina (1954).

Head worked on numerous Alfred Hitchcock classics, including Ingrid Bergman in Notorious (1946); Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955); Doris Day (The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1956), Kim Novak (Vertigo, 1958) and Tippi Hedren in The Birds (1963).

Beginning with the creation of the Academy Award for Best Costume Design in 1949, Head was nominated in the category every year through 1966. In total, she received 35 Oscar nominations and won eight times, from the The Heiress and ending with The Sting (1973), which won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Head's distinctive personal style inspired the character design for Edna Mode, the "supers" costume designer from Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2. ("No capes!")

Dr. Elizabeth Stern
Dr. Elizabeth Stern | Photo: University of Toronto

Dr. Elizabeth Stern

Born and raised in Canada, Dr. Elizabeth Stern earned a residency at Good Samaritan and Cedars of Lebanon in Los Angeles in 1942 and remained in the city until she died in 1980. In LA, Dr. Stern focused her research on cervical cancer and made huge strides in understanding the development and possible causes of the disease. She studied how the disease slowly took shape. In 1963, after joining the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, she wrote a paper on the link between the herpes simplex virus and cervical cancer. Later on, after more than a decade of studying local women, she found a link between oral contraception use and the disease. Today, cervical cancer is often caught and treated early and thanks in part to Dr. Stern's lifetime of research.

Esther Wong

Known as "The Godmother of Punk," Esther Wong was born in Shanghai and emigrated to the U.S. in 1949 to escape the Communist takeover of China. After 20 years of working as a clerk in a shipping company, Esther and her husband George opened the Polynesian-themed Madame Wong's in Chinatown's Central Plaza.

Business was slow when self-described "bum vivant" Paul Greenstein, an aspiring music promoter, approached the Wongs. Greenstein convinced them to let him book punk bands - at the time a new, underground music genre - in the fall of 1978. Tuesday nights became well-known in the punk scene and helped jumpstart business at the restaurant, but creative differences led to Greenstein's ouster. With the success of the punk nights, the Wongs opened a second, larger venue in Santa Monica called Madame Wong's West. Esther took over bookings and leaned into New Wave bands and their less rowdy crowds. Punks flocked to the nearby Hong Kong Café, which booked bands that were refused by Madame Wong's. The rivalry is the subject of the Season 14 episode of Artbound, "Chinatown Punk Wars."

Notable acts that Esther booked include The Alley Cats, The Bangs, Black Flag, Candy, Daniel Amos, Fear, Fishbone, The Go-Go's, Guns N' Roses, The Knack, Los Illegals, Los Lobos, The Members, The Motels, Oingo Boingo, The Police, the Ramones, Red Hot Chili Peppers and X. The original Madame Wong's closed after a fire in 1985 - the second-story space is now a private residence. Madame Wong's West ended its run in 1991.

Black & white portrait of Etta James
Photo: Etta James, Facebook

Etta James

Born and raised in South LA, Jamesetta Hawkins is known around the world as Etta James, whose legendary voice spanned blues, R&B, soul, jazz, gospel and rock & roll. At age five, James began singing in the choir at the St. Paul Baptist Church and soon became a soloist despite her youth. In her teens, James formed a girl group called the Creolettes, which was renamed the Peaches - their single "The Wallflower" topped the Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Tracks chart in 1955 and led to an opening slot on Little Richard's national tour.

After the Peaches, James signed with famed Chicago label Chess Records and released her debut album, At Last! in 1960. The album features her signature song, "At Last," a cover of a Glenn Miller tune; jazz standards such as "Stormy Weather" and "A Sunday Kind of Love"; and Willie Dixon's blues classic, "I Just Want to Make Love to You." Rolling Stone ranked At Last! at #191 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list: "James bloomed into a fiery interpreter on this spellbinding LP." In his five-star review, Stephen Cook of AllMusic wrote that "one hears [Etta James] at her peak in a swinging and varied program of blues, R&B, and jazz standards."

James released several more albums and charted hit singles - though they didn't reach the critical and commercial heights of At Last! - including 1967's "I'd Rather Go Blind," which has since become a blues classic and has been covered by B.B. King, Rod Stewart, Beyoncé and many others.

She became an in-demand live performer, playing the Montreux Jazz Festival and opening for the Rolling Stones on their 1978 tour - Keith Richards once told TIME, "Etta James was my soulmate." During an extended hiatus from recording, James performed occasionally, including singing "When the Saints Go Marching In" at the opening ceremony of the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA; and duetting with Chuck Berry on "Rock and Roll Music" in the 1987 documentary, Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll.

James released her comeback album, Seven Year Itch, in 1988 and garnered her first GRAMMY Award (Best Jazz Vocal Album) for 1994's Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday. Her final two albums, Let's Roll and Blues to the Bone, won GRAMMYs for Best Contemporary Blues Album and Best Traditional Blues Album, respectively. Etta James was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and received the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.

NORMS La Cienega at night
NORMS La Cienega | Photo: NORMS Restaurants, Facebook
Pann's Restaurant exterior
Pann's | Photo: Mike Hume, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

Helen Liu Fong

Googie architecture developed and thrived in Los Angeles, where car culture lent itself to buildings and signage that was noticeable to those driving along the city streets. One of the pioneers of this style was architect and interior designer Helen Liu Fong. Born in Chinatown, Fong went to work for the firm Armet & Davis, who were responsible for many iconic mid-20th century diners. She worked on projects like Norms on La Cienega, Pann's in Westchester, and Johnie's in the Miracle Mile. Located at Wilshire and Fairfax, Johnie's is a former coffee shop and popular film location, appearing in The Big Lebowski, Reservoir Dogs and more.

Hedy Lamarr

Known during the Golden Age of Hollywood as "the Most Beautiful Woman in the World," Hedy Lamarr was a Jewish emigrant who escaped Nazi Austria and signed a Hollywood movie contract after meeting MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer in London. Following her breakthrough role in Algiers, Lamarr starred in hits such as Ziegfield Girl, White Cargo, and Samson and Delilah. She was also the model for Walt Disney's Snow White and was the inspiration for Catwoman - the original comic book character and later Anne Hathaway's performance in The Dark Knight Rises.

Beyond her legendary beauty and classic movies, Lamarr will be remembered for the "frequency hopping" technology she invented with composer George Antheil. Designed to thwart Nazi jamming of Allied torpedoes, the technology wasn't adopted by the Navy until the 1960s. Their invention became the basis for secure WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth - Lamarr and Antheil were posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. The award-winning 2017 documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story explores her incredible life and legacy as a trailblazing inventor.

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis
Photo: Hilda L. Solis, Facebook

Hilda L. Solis

In her long and distinguished political career, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis has served in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the Secretary of Labor under Barack Obama, where she became the first Latina to hold a Cabinet position. A champion of environmental issues for low-income and minority communities, Solis was instrumental in passing California's environmental justice law in 1999. For her efforts, she received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2000.

Ida Lupino

Born in the UK into a family of well-known performers, Ida Lupino began acting for the camera as a teenager and eventually headed out to Los Angeles. As an actor, her career was prolific and lasted from the 1930s through the late 1970s. However, she became a trailblazer when she stepped behind the camera. Dubbed "the Mother of American Independent Film" by Vanity Fair, Lupino was a director when that was an incredibly rare position held by a woman. In 1949, she made her directorial debut (uncredited) with the film Not Wanted. A number of directing credits followed, from the noir flick The Hitch-Hiker to the teen comedy The Trouble with Angels. She flourished on television, directing episodes of classic series like The Donna Reed Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and Bewitched.

Jeanne Córdova
Photo: Jeanne Córdova, Facebook

Jeanne Córdova

A native of Germany, Jeanne Córdova graduated cum laude from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in Social Welfare and earned a master's in Social Work. After a stint as a nun at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Córdova came out as a lesbian and embarked on her calling as an author and activist in the early 1970s. She went on to become the publisher of the magazine Lesbian Tide while also working as a columnist for the Los Angeles Free Press. Later on, she founded the Community Yellow Pages to support gay and lesbian business owners, and continued to write. Her work appeared in publications like The Advocate and The Nation, as well as in a number of anthologies. She authored three books, including the memoir When We Were Outlaws.

Jewel Thais-Williams

Located on the border of Koreatown in the Arlington Heights neighborhood, Catch One is one of L.A.'s top nightclubs, featuring a wide-ranging lineup of electronic, hip hop, indie dance, metal and rock. Catch One was originally known as Jewel’s Catch One. Opened in 1973, Jewel’s was the first exclusively gay and lesbian disco for African Americans in the country. During the club's 40-year heyday, owner Jewel Thais-Williams welcomed everyone from Madonna and Rick James to the "Queen of Disco," Sylvester. To honor her contributions to the LGBT community, Thais-Williams was named the Grand Marshal of the 2016 LA PRIDE Parade & Festival in West Hollywood.

Jodie Foster

From child star to Oscar-winning actress, Jodie Foster continues to add to an illustrious career that spans nearly 60 years. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Foster made her debut in a Coppertone TV commercial at age three. She appeared in numerous TV shows in the 1960s and '70s, as well as Disney films like Freaky Friday. In 1974, she had a supporting role in Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Scorsese cast Foster as a child prostitute in his next film, Taxi Driver (1976). Foster received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and won BAFTAs for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Most Promising Newcomer. Later that year, she starred in Alan Parker's Bugsy Malone, for which she won the same two BAFTAs.

After graduating magna cum laude from Yale in 1985, Foster transitioned to adult film roles. Her breakthrough came with her portrayal of a rape victim in The Accused (1988), which earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress. Foster struck Oscar gold once again with The Silence of the Lambs (1991), playing FBI trainee Clarice Starling opposite Sir Anthony Hopkins as serial killer Hannibal Lekter. Along with Oscars for the two leads, the movie won Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally).

In the 2000s, Foster appeared in critical and box office hits like David Fincher's Panic Room (2002), Spike Lee's Inside Man (2006) and Carnage (2011), which earned her a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress. Foster received the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 70th Golden Globes and won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for The Mauritanian (2021). She's nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Nyad (2023) at the 96th Academy Awards and earned kudos for starring as Chief Liz Danvers in True Detective: Night Country.

Joni Mitchell at her home in Laurel Canyon in 1970
Joni Mitchell at her home in Laurel Canyon, 1970 | Photo: Henry Diltz Photography, Facebook

Joni Mitchell

One of the greatest singer-songwriters in music history, Joni Mitchell was born in Alberta, Canada and began her career singing in small clubs before moving and touring the U.S. at age 22. David Crosby saw her performing at a nightclub in Florida and invited her to Los Angeles, where she recorded her debut album, Song to a Seagull, in 1968. From 1969 to 1974, Mitchell lived in Laurel Canyon along with other legends of the rock era, including Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, and members of The Mamas & The Papas, The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

In 1971, Mitchell recorded the landmark Blue album, ranked number 3 in the 2020 edition of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The New York Times selected Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented "turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music," and NPR named Blue number 1 on its 2017 list of the Greatest Albums Made By Women.

Mitchell's numerous accolades include induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. She's won 11 GRAMMY Awards - the first in 1969, a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, and most recently for Best Folk Album in 2024, when she performed at the ceremony for the first time. The performance was a triumphant return to the stage after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015.

In November 2018, she attended a tribute concert at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which was released the following March as Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration. This October 19-20, Joni Mitchell & The Joni Jam at the Hollywood Bowl will be her first headlining concerts in LA since 2000.

Official portrait of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass
Mayor Karen Bass | Photo: City of Los Angeles

Karen Bass

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Karen Bass is the 43rd Mayor of Los Angeles - the first woman and second African American (after Tom Bradley) to serve as mayor. Bass is an alum of Alexander Hamilton High School, Cal State Dominguez Hills and USC. In 2004, Bass was elected to represent California's 47th Assembly District - at the time, she was the only African American woman serving in the state legislature. Bass was the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly from May 2008 to March 2010; a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from January 2011 to December 2022; and 26th Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from January 2019 to January 2021. Karen Bass was officially sworn in as mayor on Dec. 10, 2022 and the next day by Vice President Kamala Harris at a public inauguration ceremony.

"A Rose for Lilly" at Walt Disney Concert Hall
"A Rose for Lilly" at Walt Disney Concert Hall  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Lillian Disney

Lillian Disney was an ink artist and married to Walt Disney from 1925 until his death in 1966. Lillian is famously credited with naming her husband's beloved cartoon character, Mickey Mouse. During a train trip from New York to California in 1928, Walt showed a drawing of "Mortimer Mouse" to Lillian, who said the name sounded "too depressing" and suggested "Mickey Mouse" instead of Mortimer.

In 1987, Lillian pledged a $50 million gift towards the construction of Walt Disney Concert Hall, which was designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 2003, six years after her death. The Blue Ribbon Garden is the hidden rooftop garden at the Hall. One of the garden’s highlights is "A Rose for Lilly," the fountain that Gehry designed as a tribute to Lillian and her love for Royal Delft porcelain vases and roses. Lillian also helped fund the founding of the California Institute of the Arts (aka CalArts), which opened in 1971 and counts Tim Burton, Don Cheadle, Sofia Coppola and Academy Award-winning Pixar animators among its many famous alumni.

Lisa Leslie

Lisa Leslie was the first player drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks when the WNBA was founded in 1997. A native of Gardena in LA's South Bay, she won acclaim as a player as far back as high school, when she played on Inglewood's Morningside High School state championship team. She went on to play for USC, and won a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, before joining the WNBA. Leslie spent her professional career with the Sparks, winning two championships and three MVP awards along the way.

In 2002, Leslie became the first player to dunk in a WNBA game. She retired in 2009 at the age of 36 and her jersey was retired the following year. Today, she's a partial owner of the team.

Lucille Ball

Born in Jamestown, New York, Lucille Ball moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in show business. As a contract player for RKO, she had numerous bit parts in the 1930s, from a Three Stooges short to the Marx Brothers' Room Service and the Astaire-Rogers classic, Top Hat. In 1940, Ball starred in the musical Too Many Girls, where she met and fell in love with Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz - the two eloped months after the movie's release. Ball signed with MGM in the '40s, but never achieved major stardom there, earning the nickname "Queen of the B's."

Like many starlets of the era, Ball picked up radio work for extra money and exposure. Ball was cast as a wacky housewife in My Favorite Husband, a comedy special that aired on CBS Radio in July 1948. Its success led to a radio series, with Richard Denning co-starring as Ball's husband. CBS wanted to develop a TV version of the show with Ball and Denning, but Ball refused unless her on-screen husband was played by her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. Executives were reluctant to cast a mixed race couple, so Ball and Arnaz founded a production company, Desilu, took the show on the road and convinced the network that their concept would work.

I Love Lucy debuted on CBS on Oct. 15, 1951 and ran for six seasons. Co-starring Vivian Vance and William Frawley, I Love Lucy was the first show to feature an ensemble cast and the first scripted TV program to be filmed on 35mm film in front of a studio audience. The series cinematographer was Academy Award-winner Karl Freund, who worked on classic movies like Metropolis (1927) and Dracula (1931).

Winner of five Emmy Awards, I Love Lucy became the most-watched show in the U.S. in four of its six seasons and was the first to end its run at the top of the Nielsen ratings. The Season 2 episode "Lucy Goes to the Hospital," when Ball gives birth to Little Ricky, is one of the most-watched TV events of all time - it garnered a then-record rating of 71.7, meaning 71.7% of all households with TVs (about 44 million viewers) were tuned in to the program. A 2012 survey by ABC News and People named I Love Lucy the "Best TV Show of All Time."

After divorcing Arnaz in 1960, Ball bought him out of Desilu and she became the first woman to head a major studio. Along with I Love Lucy, Desilu produced classic TV series like Star Trek TOS, Mission: Impossible and The Untouchables. Ball sold her shares in Desilu to Gulf+Western for $17M ($149M in today's dollars) and it was renamed Paramount Television.

In March 2020, Lucille Ball was named one of TIME's 100 Women of the Year, a list of the most influential women of the past century. Ball's numerous accolades include two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960; a Kennedy Center honoree in 1986; a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989; and a USPS commemorative stamp issued on Aug. 6, 2011, what would have been Ball's 90th birthday.

Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch"
Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch"

Marilyn Monroe

Norma Jeane Mortenson was born in Los Angeles on June 1, 1926. The world knows her today as Marilyn Monroe, who became one of the biggest movie stars of the 1950s and early 1960s, only to have her life cut short at age 36. Monroe was known for her comedic performances in classics like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, and Some Like It Hot. Eager to escape typecasting, Monroe studied at the Actors Studio - her dramatic turn in Bus Stop earned critical praise and garnered a Golden Globe nomination.

In the decades since her controversial death - officially ruled a “probable suicide” - Monroe has become a legendary movie star, international sex symbol, and pop culture icon. In March 2020, Monroe was named one of TIME's 100 Women of the Year, a list of the most influential women of the past century.

Read on for Los Angeles locations where you can discover Marilyn Monroe’s enduring legacy, from her favorite hotels and restaurants, to one of the world’s foremost collections of Marilyn memorabilia.

Mary Pickford profile photo
Photo: Mary Pickford, Facebook

Mary Pickford

Known as "America's Sweetheart," the "Queen of the Movies" and the "girl with the curls," Mary Pickford was one of the greatest stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Pickford starred in 52 features and is credited with defining the ingénue archetype in cinema - an endearingly innocent girl or young woman. She received the second-ever Academy Award for Best Actress for her first sound film role in Coquette (1929) and received an honorary Oscar in 1976. Pickford helped found both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

Pickford was much more than a movie star. She co-founded not one, but two studios - the first was Pickford-Fairbanks Studio (known today as The Lot). In 1919, she co-founded United Artists with Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks. Pickford was influential in the design of the studio's flagship movie house, now known as the United Theater on Broadway. She continued to produce films for United Artists after she retired from acting in the early 1930s. Pickford died in 1979, but the foundation that bears her name continues her philanthropic work.

Among Pickford's many accolades is a star on the Walk of Fame and her handprints and footprints at TCL Chinese Theatre. The Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Hollywood and the Mary Pickford Theater at the Library of Congress are named in her honor.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland didn't begin studying ballet until she was 13, but her talent was undeniable. As a teenager, Copeland trained at San Pedro Ballet School. Today, there's a mural of Copeland on the side of the building and an adjacent intersection is named for the famed dancer. In 2015, Copeland made history as the first African-American promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre. Copeland has had lead roles in famed ballets like Swan Lake and Firebird.

Nancy Silverton
Nancy Silverton | Photo: Hedley & Bennett

Nancy Silverton

Famed chef and baker Nancy Silverton has made a major impact not just on the LA culinary scene, but is praised for her role in popularizing sourdough and artisan bread across the country. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Silverton attended Sonoma State as a poli sci major but dropped out after she had "an epiphany" - she wanted to be a chef. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in London, Silverton worked at Michael's and then became the opening pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck's Spago in 1982.

In 1989, Silverton and her then-husband Mark Peel opened the acclaimed Campanile on La Brea - two years later, Silverton won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. In his appreciation, the late Jonathan Gold wrote in the LA Times, "It is hard to overstate Campanile's contributions to American cooking." Six months before Campanile, Silverton and Peel opened La Brea Bakery, which was an instant hit - much like the restaurant it was built to serve. Silverton's incredibly popular "Grilled Cheese Night" at Campanile is credited with starting a global trend.

After leaving Campanile - it closed in 2012 and the building is now home to République - Silverton opened Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza in 2007. "The Mozzaplex" was completed with the opening of Chi Spacca in 2013. Silverton was named Outstanding Chef, the James Beard Foundation Award's highest honor, in 2014. The next year, Silverton launched Nancy's Fancy, a line of small batch gelato and sorbetto.

In February 2018, Silverton, James Beard Award-winner Matt Molina and Silverlake Wine's Randy Clement partnered to open Triple Beam Pizza in Highland Park. Outposts have since opened in Echo Park and Glendora, with Santa Monica on the way.

Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood Design District
Pacific Design Center

Norma Merrick Sklarek

A trailblazing architect, Norma Merrick Sklarek's work is spread across Los Angeles, from Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport to the Pacific Design Center and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. When she earned her California architect license in 1962, she was the first black woman to do so in this state. She had already earned a license in New York, where she was previously employed. Sklarek enjoyed a long career in architecture, but it was not an easy one; the LA Times obituary that ran after her 2012 death noted that Sklarek dealt with racist and sexist attitudes in her field. She went on to co-found an all-female firm in the mid-1980s and was ultimately elected to the American Institute of Architecture College of Fellows.

Octavia E. Butler
Octavia E. Butler | Photo: IMDb

Octavia E. Butler

Born in Pasadena, Octavia E. Butler was a pioneering science fiction writer and winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards. In 1995, Butler became the first science-fiction writer to receive a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. In a literary genre traditionally dominated by white males, Butler broke barriers with stories told from an African American perspective and feminist aesthetic. Butler also challenged gender identity - the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Bloodchild (1995) tells the story about a pregnant man; and Wild Seed (1980) centers on two shape-shifting—and sex-changing—immortal Africans, Doro and Anyanwu.

In its 2006 obituary, The New York Times noted that Butler's internationally acclaimed novels "explore far-reaching issues of race, sex, power and, ultimately, what it means to be human." Published in 1979, Kindred is perhaps Butler's most famous work and is regularly taught in high schools and college courses. The protagonist, Dana is an African American writer living in Los Angeles in 1976 who suddenly begins time traveling back and forth to a pre-Civil War plantation in Maryland. Writer Walter Mosley has described Kindred as "everything the literature of science fiction can be." In December 2022, FX premiered an eight-episode series on Hulu based on Kindred.

In her will, Butler bequeathed her papers to The Huntington Library. Numbering more than 8,000 items, the Octavia E. Butler Collection includes her unpublished book drafts, diaries, research, notes, letters, and other ephemera.

Butler was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2019, the landmark Central Library in Downtown LA opened the Octavia Lab, a DIY maker space and audiovisual studio, named in her honor.

NASA named the landing site for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover the "Octavia E. Butler Landing." In September 2022, Butler was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. That same month, the Washington STEAM Multilingual Academy in Pasadena was officially renamed the Octavia E. Butler Magnet.

In February 2023, Nikki High opened Octavia’s Bookshelf, an independent bookstore that invites readers of all ages and backgrounds to "have a wonderful time exploring our store of books written by BIPOC writers." The LA Times notes that Octavia's Bookshelf is "located in the same neighborhood where Butler lived and found inspiration for her novels."

Ruth Handler with Barbie and Ken dolls in 1961
Ruth Handler in 1961 | Photo: UCLA Library Digital Collections

Ruth Handler

The creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler (née Mosko) was born in Denver, Colorado. During the summer of her sophomore year in college, Mosko landed a job at Paramount Studio. After marrying her high school sweetheart Izzy Handler, the couple moved to Los Angeles, where Ruth returned to Paramount. Izzy changed his name to Elliot and became a lighting designer.

The Handlers started a furniture business, which was renamed Mattel in January 1945 when business executive Harold "Matt" Matson joined the company. Ruth served as Mattel's first president, from 1945 to 1975. Due to poor health, Matson sold his stake in Mattel to Ruth in 1946. When sales declined in World War II, the company turned to toy furniture and eventually toy manufacturing.

Handler watched her daughter Barbara and friends playing with paper dolls and role-playing grown-ups, and saw an opportunity - dolls at that time were mostly infants, no dolls on the market resembled adults. During a trip to Europe in 1956 with Barbara and her son Kenneth, Ruth came across an adult-style German doll called Bild Lilli - it was exactly what Ruth had in mind.

Returning to LA with Bild Lillis, Handler collaborated with designer Jack Ryan and redesigned the doll. She named the new doll Barbie after her daughter. Barbie debuted at the American International Toy Fair in New York City on March 9, 1959. Barbie was an instant hit - more than 300,000 dolls were sold in its first year. Mattel later added a boyfriend for Barbie, named Ken after the Handlers' son. A diverse line of Barbie dolls have been released in the ensuing decades, featuring more than 125 careers and a wide range of clothing, accessories, sports gear, cars and dollhouses.

Mattel has sold more than a billion Barbie dolls - worldwide, over 100 Barbies are sold every minute and a Barbie Dreamhouse every two minutes. Barbie has become a cultural icon - Andy Warhol created a painting of Barbie in 1986; Barbie celebrated her 50th anniversary with a runway show during New York Fashion Week in 2009; and the Louvre presented an exhibit of 700 Barbie dolls in 2016.

Ruth Handler is played by Rhea Perlman in the live action Barbie movie, which stars Margot Robbie in the title role and Ryan Gosling as Ken in an Oscar-nominated performance. Barbie received a total of eight nominations for the 96th Academy Awards, including LA native America Ferrera for Best Supporting Actress and two nods for Best Original Song ("I'm Just Ken" and "What Was I Made For").

Sally Ride on the flight deck of the Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-7 mission in 1983
Sally Ride on the flight deck of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983 | Photo: NASA

Sally Ride

Born and raised in the Encino neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley, Sally Ride became the first American woman and the third woman to fly in space. After attending UCLA as the only woman majoring in physics, Ride transferred to Stanford, where she graduated in 1973 with a BS in Physics and a BA in English Literature. She later earned a Master's in Physics and a PhD in Philosophy.

In January 1977, Ride responded to an ad from NASA, which was recruiting astronauts for the Space Shuttle program. Out of thousands of applicants, Ride became one of 208 finalists. A year later, Ride was selected to participate in NASA Astronaut Group 8, the first to include female and minority astronauts. In August 1979, NASA announced that 35 astronaut candidates - including Ride - had completed their training and evaluation, and were now officially astronauts, qualified for selection on space flight crews.

Ride served as a ground-based capsule communicator (CapCom) for the second and third Space Shuttle flights, and helped develop the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (RMS) aka the "Canadarm" or robot arm. In April 1982, NASA announced that Sally RIde would be a member of the crew for the STS-7 mission. The Space Shuttle Challenger launched at Kennedy Space Center on June 18, 1983 with Ride aboard as a Mission Specialist. In addition to being the first American woman in space, Ride also became the youngest American astronaut at age 32. Several satellites were deployed during the historic spaceflight. The Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base on June 24.

Ride's second spaceflight was the STS-41G mission in 1984, also on board the Challenger. The mission made history as the first with two women crew members - Ride and Kathryn D. Sullivan, who attended Taft High School in Woodland Hills and became the first American woman to walk in space. Ride spent more than 343 hours in space before leaving NASA in 1987.

In 2001, Ride and her life partner Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, along with three like-minded colleagues, founded a company called Sally Ride Science with the goal of inspiring girls and boys of all backgrounds in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and to promote science literacy. Following Ride's death in 2012, the company became a nonprofit based at UC San Diego.

Sally Ride's numerous accolades include a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented by President Barack Obama to Dr. O'Shaughnessy at a White House ceremony in November 2013; the RV Sally Ride, the first vessel in the U.S. Navy's research fleet named after a female scientist; and a Forever Stamp issued by the USPS in 2018.

As one of the first two honorees of the American Women Quarters series, Ride made history in March 2022 as the first LGBTQ person on U.S. currency.

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills
Photo: Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Wallis Annenberg

Wallis Annenberg is Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of the LA-based Annenberg Foundation, which provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. Annenberg has also spearheaded the opening of cultural venues such as the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, which closed in 2020. Other projects include the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, and the Annenberg Community Beach House, a free public swim and event facility in Santa Monica.