Women in Government

Holly Mitchell 2017 HONOREE

State Senator, California

Holly Mitchell has a long history of activism. Having worked for California’s first African-American female state senator and then gone on to run the state’s largest family development nonprofit, she says she considered herself a “great No. 2” who can dive deep into policy. “The extra step of actually holding office yourself seemed really unnecessary to actually effecting policy change,” she says. 

That changed when she was lobbying against deep cuts to subsidized child care in California. As a single mom who had a policy and child development background, it dawned on her that Sacramento might need someone with her unique set of experiences and skills. “I felt like I really didn’t have a choice. I got mad enough to run.” 

Since being elected in 2010, Mitchell has focused on issues like child trafficking and child poverty. One of her bills gained national attention in 2015 when California became the first state to ban the use of secret grand juries when deciding whether to indict police officers in cases of deadly force. Last year she pushed through a repeal of California’s maximum family grant policy, which had prohibited people from receiving increased welfare income if they have more children while receiving public assistance. 

*CORRECTION: A previous version of this mistakenly stated that Mitchell was elected in 2008. She won her seat in 2010. It has also been updated to reflect the fact that Mitchell worked for California's first African-American female state senator -- not the state's first African-American state senator.


Read about the Women in Government program and the rest of the honorees.