Skip to content

Mary Hayashi: Women Who Paved The Way


Women’s History Month is celebrated annually in March to honor the contributions and achievements of women throughout history. It is a time to reflect on the progress that has been made and to continue to advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.

In addition to celebrating women’s accomplishments, it’s important to highlight the significant contributions of minority women leaders in politics. These women have paved the way for future generations and have shattered barriers and stereotypes to make a difference in their communities and beyond.

As a former California State Assembly member, I, Mary Hayashi, understand the importance of recognizing the accomplishments of minority women leaders in politics. As a woman of color who has worked in politics, I recognize the challenges that women and minorities face in the political arena and have deep respect for those who have made a difference.

In this article, I, Mary Hayashi, want to spotlight some inspiring women who have made significant contributions to politics and social justice. Whether it’s Patsy Mink or Rosa Parks or Mazie Hirono, each of these women’s resilience and determination has created lasting change and serve as a reminder of the power and potential within all women.

Patsy Mink

Congresswoman Patsy Mink was a true inspiration to me for many reasons. She made history in 1965 as the first Asian American woman to be elected to the US Congress, and she spent the next four decades advocating tirelessly for women’s rights and for the Asian American community. As a member of the Education and Workforce and Budget committees, she championed important bills to improve childcare and education.

Mink’s contributions to women in politics were significant. She co-authored the Title IX legislation, which prohibited gender discrimination in education, and was a vocal advocate for equal opportunities for women in sports. She was also a founding member of the Congressional Women’s Caucus, which worked to advance policies that supported women and families.

When I was involved in founding NAWHO (National Asian Women’s Health Organization), Patsy was one of the first to offer her support and help establish our credibility. Even after her passing in 2002, she continued to inspire me, Mary Hayashi, with her unwavering dedication to our cause. Despite her high position in government, Patsy never turned down a request from us for assistance, which is truly remarkable.

One of the challenges Patsy gave me was organizing a conference for Asian American women in political leadership, which I accomplished in 1997. At the time, there were very few Asian women in national political leadership positions, with Patsy being the only Asian American woman in Congress. However, there were more Asian American women serving at local levels as mayors, school board members, and city council members.

Our goal for the 1997 summit was twofold: first, to empower Asian American women elected officials to become health advocates for their communities by educating them on key issues; and second, to build a network of Asian American women in elected office to provide support to one another and the next generation of leaders. Thanks to Patsy’s leadership and inspiration, we were able to achieve these goals and pave the way for greater representation and empowerment of Asian American women in political leadership.

“Thanks to Patsy’s leadership and inspiration, we were able to […] pave the way for greater representation and empowerment of Asian American women in political leadership.” – Mary Hayashi

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, the American civil rights icon, made history in 1955 by defying the segregation laws of Montgomery, Alabama. She refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person and her brave act sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement. Parks was also a secretary for the NAACP and served on its board of directors, where she played a vital role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Parks’ impact on women in politics cannot be overstated. Her courage and activism inspired women and minorities to challenge the status quo and fight for their rights. Her legacy serves as a reminder that one person can make a difference, and we must continue to strive for equality and justice.

As Women’s History Month honors the accomplishments of women who have made a significant impact on society, it’s impossible not to mention Rosa Parks. Her activism and bravery continue to inspire people worldwide, and her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and women’s rights will forever be remembered.

Patricia Schroeder

This month, the world mourns the passing of Patricia Schroeder, a trailblazing politician who fought tirelessly for women’s rights and gender equality. Schroeder served in the United States House of Representatives for Colorado’s 1st congressional district from 1973 to 1997 and was the first woman to serve on the House Armed Services Committee.

Throughout her career, Schroeder authored several landmark pieces of legislation, including the Family Medical Leave Act, which provides workers with unpaid leave for family and medical reasons. Her work in Congress broke down barriers and paved the way for future generations of female politicians, earning her a well-deserved place in history.

Schroeder’s dedication to women’s rights and gender equality inspired many, and her contributions continue to be celebrated today. Her legacy will live on through the countless lives she touched and the progress she helped to achieve. Patricia Schroeder’s passing is a loss for us all, but her memory and accomplishments will never be forgotten.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is a trailblazing lawyer and politician born in Oakland, California in 1964. She attended Howard University and later earned a law degree from the University of California, Hastings. Harris began her career as a prosecutor in California and rose to become the state’s Attorney General in 2011. In 2020, she made history as the first female and first minority Vice President of the United States, alongside President Joe Biden.

Harris’ election shattered barriers and inspired many to pursue their dreams. Throughout her career, she has been a fierce advocate for justice and equality, championing issues such as criminal justice reform, immigration reform, and women’s reproductive rights. Harris is a role model and inspiration for women and minorities everywhere, embodying the progress and achievements made by these groups throughout history.

Shirley Chisholm

Born in Brooklyn in 1924, Shirley Chisholm was a pioneering American politician, educator, and author. As the first African American woman elected to Congress, she became a fearless advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, and education. Her legacy has had a profound impact on American society and politics, paving the way for future generations of women and minorities to make their voices heard. Chisholm’s leadership and dedication to public service serve as an inspiration to all who believe in the power of advocacy and positive change

Mazie Hirono

Mazie Hirono, the first Asian American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, overcame obstacles to become a strong advocate for women and minorities. Her impressive academic achievements and years of public service in Hawaii paved the way for her election to the U.S. House of Representatives and eventually the Senate. As a senator, Hirono has been a fierce advocate for women’s rights, healthcare, education, and civil rights, using her voice to speak out against discrimination and demand accountability for perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault. Her legacy inspires future generations to fight for justice and equality.

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth is a Thai-American politician, former U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, and advocate for veterans’ rights and women’s equality. Growing up in Hawaii, Duckworth attended the University of Hawaii and George Washington University before joining the Army in 1992 as a helicopter pilot. In 2004, she lost both her legs in combat in Iraq, but went on to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 and the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Duckworth’s military service and sacrifice have fueled her dedication to improving veterans’ access to healthcare, mental health services, housing, and job opportunities. She has also been a strong advocate for women’s healthcare and reproductive rights.

As a Thai-American woman and a disabled veteran, Tammy Duckworth has overcome numerous obstacles to become a leading voice in American politics. Her courage, perseverance, and commitment to service make her a powerful inspiration to women and minorities across the country, and a reminder of the important role that they can play in shaping our nation’s future.

Remembering the Women Who Paved the Way

This Women’s History Month has been full of powerful stories of influential minority women leaders who have shattered glass ceilings and defied expectations. From civil rights icons like Rosa Parks and Shirley Chisholm to trailblazers in politics like Kamala Harris and Patsy Mink, these women have left an indelible mark on history.

But as we celebrate their achievements, we must also recognize that there is still work to be done. Although my legislative measures as “Mary Hayashi – former CA Assemblywoman” are a significant step forward, We must continue to uplift and empower women of color and other marginalized groups in all areas of society. Whether it’s through supporting their businesses, amplifying their voices, or advocating for policies that advance their rights, we all have a role to play in building a more equitable and just world.

So this Women’s History Month, let’s honor the legacies of these incredible women by taking action to create a brighter and more inclusive future for all women.  Together, we can continue to advocate for gender equality and diversity and ensure that the stories of women’s history are told and celebrated for generations to come

“We must continue to uplift and empower women of color and other marginalized groups in all areas of society.” – Mary Hayashi

About Mary Hayashi

Mary Hayashi is a respected healthcare leader and former California State Assemblymember. She has over two decades of experience in healthcare and public service, having served on several boards and committees related to health policy and advocacy. During her time in the Assembly, Hayashi authored vital legislation to improve access to healthcare and mental health services, particularly for underserved and vulnerable communities. She is also a strong advocate for the rights of patients and healthcare workers. Hayashi’s work has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including the California Primary Care Association’s “Legislator of the Year” award and the Women’s Foundation of California’s “Women’s Policy Maker Award.” Today, Hayashi continues to be a passionate voice for healthcare reform and mental health issues, advocating for increased investment in resources for mental health professionals and better care for all. Learn more about Mary and her mental health advocacy here.

Posted in