2019 Woman of the Year: Dr. Ann Lopez

Dr. Ann López has been named the Woman of the Year by the 29th Assembly District of California.


Dr. Ann López is the Founder and Executive Director of Center for Farmworker Families, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the living and working conditions of migrant farmworker families on the Central Coast and in Mexico. She is a voice for these voiceless, marginalized and exploited members of our community, and a fierce defender of human rights.

Born into an interracial, working-class home, Dr. López struggled with both racially and sexually biased sentiments and attitudes at her all-white school. Despite these challenges, she excelled in her studies, particularly in the sciences. Refusing to heed the advice of a high school counselor who discouraged her from higher academic pursuits, Dr. López applied to the University of California, Riverside, where she earned a B.A. degree in biology. She went on to receive her master’s degree in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In 1969, while enjoying a successful career as a biology teacher at San José City College, Dr. López read a series of news articles documenting the plight of migrant farm workers, and the human and environmental consequences wrought by unfair trade and agricultural policies. At the age of 49, Dr. López pursued a doctorate in environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The focus of her doctoral studies centered on understanding and documenting the human side of the binational migration circuit from the subsistence and small producer farms of west central Mexico to employment in California’s corporate agribusiness. This research and her firsthand account traveling and living with this vulnerable, yet resilient population culminated in the publication of a book entitled The Farmworkers Journey.

Long a critic of the State of California’s “50-Mile Rule,” a well-intended but deeply flawed policy that regularly displaced farmworkers and their families, Dr. López traveled to Sacramento on multiple occasions to speak to the academic and emotional harm caused by forcing families with school-aged children to leave their homes and schools. Her advocacy and persistence fueled the policy change that extended the duration of stay and allowed for an exemption to the 50-mile rule so that school-age children can finish their school year without interruption.

Dr. López has been recognized for her work by The U.S. Congress, and the National Association of Professional Women. In March 2018, she was presented with the Cesar E. Chavez Community Award by the City of Watsonville.

I am proud and honored to name Dr. Ann López the Woman of the Year for the 29th Assembly District. She has been an unyielding force for improving the lives of farmworkers and their families, and for counteracting the racist narrative that threatens our very democracy.

Mark Stone
Assembly member, 29th District