Celebrate the Legacy of Extraordinary L.A. Women

From science to film, sports to politics, these incredible women rose to the top of their fields

Amanda Gorman reads her poem "The Hill We Climb" at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris
Amanda Gorman reads "The Hill We Climb" at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris | Photo: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool

From science to film, sports to politics, Los Angeles has been home to extraordinary women who have risen to the top of their fields. They made great strides in medical research, won championships, fought for the rights of others and contributed to our rich tradition of arts. Whether it's International Women's Day on March 8, or any time of the year, we salute some of the great women who were born in L.A. or have called the city home.

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.

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."

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.

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 L.A. 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. Biddy Mason died on Jan. 15, 1891 at age 72 and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights.

Carol Kaye

Widely regarded as 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 L.A. 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 L.A. 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. Vulture notes in an interview that Kaye is now semi-retired and living in Antelope Valley - incredibly, she gives lessons on Skype and continues to publish her tutorial books and DVDs.

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.

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 L.A. 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!")


Dressing Up the Stars - Academy Museum (March 4, 2023)
On Saturday, March 4, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is hosting a Dressing Up the Stars book signing and family workshop. The afternoon begins in the museum's Lower Level Lobby at 12:30pm with author Jeanne Walker Harvey signing and reading Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head. From 1:30-2:30pm, families are invited to a costume design workshop in the Shirley Temple Education Studio. Tickets are on sale at the Academy Museum website.

Property of Discover Los Angeles
Photo courtesy of The Jackson Laboratory

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.

"Jeanne Córdova: Butches, Lies & Feminism"
"Jeanne Córdova: Butches, Lies & Feminism" | Photo: Facebook

Jeanne Córdova

After a stint as a nun, Jeanne 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 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. Cordova died in Los Feliz in 2016. 

"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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 Theatre at Ace Hotel. 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. She wrote her first cookbook, Desserts, in 1986.

In 1989, Silverton and her then-husband Mark Peel opened the acclaimed Campanile on La Brea. 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 - just like the restaurant it was built to serve. Silverton won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 1991, and published her second book, Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery, in 2006. 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 Republique - Silverton opened Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza in 2007. "The Mozzaplex" was completed with the 2013 opening of Chi Spacca, described as a "meat speakeasy" by Food & Wine. 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.

Silverton's newest restaurant, The Barish, opened at the Hollywood Roosevelt in 2020. Named after Silverton's ancestors, who were cattle ranchers in Saskatchewan, Canada at the turn of the 20th century, the restaurant's menu and design are inspired by the hotel's Golden Age Hollywood heyday, from classic steakhouse dishes and baked pastas to tableside service.

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, starring newcomer Mallori Johnson as Dana and Watchmen producer and playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins as showrunner.

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."

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 L.A.-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 gathering facility in Santa Monica.