The first Mexican American woman to serve in the United States Congress, Lucille Roybal-Allard originally had no desire to enter into politics. Born and raised in the Boyle Heights com¬ munity of Los Angeles, a predominantly Mexican American neighborhood, Roybal- Allard became active at an early age in political campaigns for her father, Congressman Ed Roybal (see no. 35).
Her mother was her father’s campaign manager, running his head¬ quarters out of their home, and the children helped by folding letters, stuffing envelopes, and licking stamps. When Roybal-Allard was older, she walked precincts and helped register voters. She didn’t like the lack of privacy, however, that came with political celebrity.
So, after earning her bachelor’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles, in 1961, she chose another line of work. Roybal-Allard served as the executive director of the National Association of Hispanic CPAs, in Washington, D.C. From there, she became the assistant director for the Alcoholism Council of East Los Angeles. Later, she worked as a planning associate for the United Way.
In 1987, Roybal-Allard altered her outlook on politics. She had grown frustrated by her inability to effect change in the community. Her children had grown, and she decided to run for a vacant seat in the California Assembly. In a field of nine candidates, she won the election handily. Roybal-Allard had a noticeable impact in the California Assembly.
Emphasizing empow¬ erment of the community, she helped organize a local group of women, the Mothers of East L.A., which assisted her in a protracted fight to defeat a proposal to build a prison in her dis¬ trict. Capitalizing on the grass-roots support she helped organize, she also worked to defeat a proposal to build a toxic incinerator in the neighborhood.
Later, she authored a bill that requires an environmental impact report to be issued for any proposed toxic incinerator in California. Roybal-Allard has also fought successfully to protect the rights of women. She authored sev¬ eral bills that give greater protection to victims of domestic abuse, rape, and sexual miscon¬ duct.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) named her ’‘Legislator of the Year” in 1991. The following year, Roybal-Allard took the big step of filling her father’s shoes. When Ed Roybal retired from Congress in 1992, she won the election to replace him as one of California’s representatives. She was recently reelected, in 2002.
In Congress, she has worked to continue her father’s legacy, in addi¬ tion to focusing on the issues that were impor¬ tant to her in the California Assembly. Among other things, she has sponsored legislation to increase education regarding the citizenship process for immigrants and refugees.