LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles is mourning a trailblazing political leader, Gloria Molina, who died over the weekend of cancer at age 74.
Molina entered politics at a time when women and Latinos were mostly shunned from the political machine.
She would eventually become the first Latina elected in several of the positions she held, including seats in the state Assembly, Los Angeles City Council and county Board of Supervisors.
"It was tougher for a woman, there's no question," said former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "Politics was very much an old boys' world."
"They didn't let the women in, and oftentimes were dismissive of them. And Gloria was not someone to be dismissed. She was tough as nails."
Villaraigosa, who also served as speaker of the state Assembly, worked with Molina for roughly 40 years and was the best man at her wedding. He says even though there were plenty of times he didn't see eye-to-eye with her, he always respected and learned from her.
"She wasn't afraid to go against anyone if she thought she was fighting for her constituents and you've got to admire and respect that," he said.
Molina was a staple of Southern California politics, holding elected office for 32 years.
After leaving the Assembly, she won a seat on the LA City Council in 1986 and then in 1991 became the first woman elected to the county Board of Supervisors.
Today all five board members are women.
"She was the one that opened the door that led to that," said current Supervisor Janice Hahn.
Hahn credits Molina with fighting for her constituents every day she served in office.
"She took that feisty spirit and really created the kind of government people deserve to have," Hahn said.
Since the announcement of her death, Southern California political leaders have been speaking out with words of praise and sadness.
Said current Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass: "She shaped Los Angles in a lasting way while paving the way for future generations of leaders. As the first woman Mayor of Los Angles, I know I stand on Supervisor Molina's shoulders."
U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla writes, "For countless women, Latinos, and young people, there's been no better champion or role model in California politics than Gloria Molina."
Zev Yaroslavsky served with Molina for 24 years, first on the LA City Council and then on the county board.
"She was thrust into positions of power," Yaroslavsky said. "And she meant to use that power for a greater good and I think that is a great legacy for her."