These California Women Were Warned, Given an Explanation, and Persisted

Senator Mitch McConnell’s words have become a mantra for trailblazing women

Oh, Mitch. There’s no way Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell could have envisioned his remarks about Senator Elizabeth Warren— “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,”—would have become the rallying call of the day. But, boy have they.

His words, invoking a rarely used rule to silence Warren (who was reading a letter by Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor yesterday), struck a chord with many women. Women tired of being silenced, of being told when they can speak.

Soon after, #LetLizSpeak and #ShePersisted started trending, as women on social media expressed frustration about how common the sentiment was (though, perhaps, rarely so pithily expressed) and began highlighting other trailblazers who didn’t sit down and shut up.

Of course, Warren’s part of a long line of women who, despite being silenced, have continued to push for equality and justice. Here are some of our favorite heroes, in no specific order: 

Dolores Huerta (1930-)

American labor leader and co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association (later known as the United Farm Workers).

Lucille Ball (1911-1989)

In addition to staring on I Love Lucy, she was the first-ever female head of a major studio.

How beautiful was Lucille Ball #ilovelucy #lennyshairsalon #vintagehair #lucilleball

A photo posted by Len Thompson (@lennyshairsalon) on

Angela Davis (1944-)

Davis is an activist, scholar, author and professor, known for her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, Black Panther Party, and Communist Party.

#WCW Educator and activist Angela Davis became known for her involvement in a politically charged murder case in the early 1970s. She emerged as a prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Her interests include prisoner rights; she co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She was a professor (now retired) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in its History of Consciousness Department and a former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department. #blackhistorymonth #angeladavis

A photo posted by Urban Resource Institute (@uri_nyc) on

Antonia Hernández (1948-)

Head of the California Community Foundation and attorney. She represented ten Latinas who were sterilized without informed consent in the landmark reproductive justice case Madrigal v. Quilligan.

Sally Ride (1951-2012)

Ride was the first American woman in space and an advocate for women and girls.

Aurora Castillo (1914-1998)

Castillo was an environmental activist and cofounded Mothers of East Los Angeles.

Dorothy Arzner (1897-1979)

Golden Age film director. During the 1930s, she was the only female director working in Hollywood.

Kamala Harris (1952-)

Before becoming the junior Senator from California, Harris was the first woman to serve as California’s Attorney General.

Miriam Matthews (1905-2003)

As the first black librarian in Los Angeles, Matthews preserved a massive and important collection of black history for the city.

Photograph courtesy the Los Angeles Public Library

Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

The Pasadena native was one of the greatest women in science fiction, and was the first sci-fi writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship Genius Grant. She’s most famous for Kindred.

@Regrann from @dwattswords – 4/28 #BlackWomenStorytellers #OctaviaButler was a science fiction novelist and the first to be nominated for the @macarthurfellows (aka the “Genius Grant”) in her field. She is most known for her “Patternist” and “Parable” Series. She was disenchanted by science fiction’s lack of imagination when it came to ethnicity and class and set to “write herself in” thus creating stories from a marginalized Black woman’s perspective, a shift from the norm, giving HER the opportunity to shape the future of her society. “Who am I? I am a forty-seven-year-old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer. I am also comfortably asocial—a hermit…. A pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.” #BlackHistoryMonth #BHM #BlackGirlMagic #BlackHistoryEveryday – #regrann

A photo posted by N (@bklyn_1976) on

Toypurina (1760-1799)

She was a Tongva shaman who fought colonialism by leading a revolt against the San Gabriel Mission of 1785.

Honoring our ancestors and sheroes. #wcw

A photo posted by HOODsisters (@hoodsisters) on

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (1932-)

Burke was the first African American woman elected to the CA Assembly in 1966.

Photograph courtesy Rolland J. Curtis Collection of Negatives and Photographs/Los Angeles Public Library

Roz Wyman (1930-)

Wyman was the youngest person (and second woman) elected to the L.A. City Council. She’s also credited with bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles.

Clara Shortridge Foltz (1849-1934)

She wrote law that allowed women to become lawyers in CA and then became the first woman to pass the state bar.

#clarashortridgefoltz #dtla

A photo posted by Realkahlil (@realkahlil) on

Charlotta Bass (1874-1969)

Bass was a newspaper editor who started the Home Protective Association to fight racist housing covenants.

Vaino Spencer (1920-2016)

Spencer was the first female black federal judge in California.