Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina speaks before the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2000, at district headquarters in Los Angeles. Molina, a groundbreaking Chicana leader in state and local California politics for more than 30 years, has died Sunday, May 14, 2023, at age 74. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

Gloria Molina, a groundbreaking Chicana leader in state and local California politics for more than 30 years, died after a three-year battle with cancer, her family announced. She was 74. 

Molina died Sunday, May 14, at her Mount Washington home in Los Angeles, surrounded by her family, her daughter, Valentina Martinez, said in a statement. 

Molina, a Democrat, was the first Latina to serve in the state Assembly, on the Los Angeles City Council and on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. 

Molina paved the way for future generations of leaders, said Karen Bass, who was elected last year as the first woman mayor of Los Angeles. 

In a statement, Bass called Molina “a force for unapologetic good and transformational change in Los Angeles” who “advocated for those who did not have a voice in government through her pioneering environmental justice work, her role as a fiscal watchdog, and her advocacy for public health.” 

Reflecting on Molina’s career, Councilwoman Heather Hutt said, “Gloria Molina was a remarkable political leader who dedicated many years being a champion for the people, always striving to make Los Angeles a better place for everyone. Her unwavering commitment to public service is an inspiration to many, and her leadership touched the lives of many Angelenos.” 


Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina talks during an interview during the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) during its 13th annual conference in Los Angeles, Friday, June 28, 1996. Molina, a groundbreaking Chicana leader in state and local California politics for more than 30 years, has died on Sunday, May 14, 2023, at age 74. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

L.A. City Councilman Tim McOsker said the date of Molina’s passing was significant. “It’s deeply moving that on Mother’s Day, the mother of the Los Angeles Latina political movement has passed,” McOsker said. “Molina was not only a trailblazer, but she held the door open for other Latinas in government to walk through.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn issued a statement saying, “It takes an enormous amount of courage to be the first woman in the room and Gloria was the first woman and first Latina in nearly every room she was in across her career.  She didn’t just make space for herself — she opened the door to the rest of us. Women in politics, particularly in Los Angeles County, owe a great debt of
gratitude to Gloria Molina.”
   Sen. Alex Padilla said that, “For countless women, Latinos, and young people, there’s been no better champion or role model in California politics than Gloria Molina. She dedicated her life to public service, entering political office during a time when few women or Latinos held top roles in public office.  … She was never, ever one to shy away from a tough fight.”  

Molina was born to working-class parents on May 31, 1948, in Montebello, California, and was the oldest of 10 children. 

She was elected to the state Assembly in 1982 and then to the Los Angeles City Council, where she served from 1987 to 1991, when she was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She served on the board until she was termed out in 2014. 

Molina revealed her terminal cancer battle in a Facebook post on March 14. 

“You should know that I’m not sad,” she wrote. “I enter this transition in life feeling so fortunate. I have an amazing and caring family, wonderful friends, and worked with committed colleagues and a loyal team.” 

The Board of Supervisors subsequently voted to change the name of downtown’s Grand Park to Gloria Molina Grand Park. 

Molina is survived by her husband, Ron Martinez; daughter; Valentina Martinez; son-in-law, Brendan Curran; grandson, Santiago; as well as nine siblings: Gracie, Irma, Domingo, Bertha, Mario, Sergio, Danny, Olga and Lisa.

In lieu of flowers, Molina’s family requests that donations be made to Casa 0101 and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in her memory “to inspire and empower future generations through the arts.” 

City News Service contributed to this article.