Journey of a Fierce Education Advocate: Patsy Mink
by ANUSHA NATARAJAN
A third generation Japanese American. The co-author of the Title IX Amendments to higher education. The first Asian American women to serve in the United States House of Representatives. All of these characteristics embody Patsy Mink: a fighter, advocate, and intellectual.
Patsy Mink Takemoto was born in Hawaii Territory in 1927 to Suematsu Takemoto and Mitama Tateyama. As a devoted and brilliant student, Patsy served as her class president and valedictorian in Maui High School. After graduation, Patsy joined University of Hawaii to pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor. However, she transferred later to University of Nebraska , which paved her way into fulfilling a different goal: going to law school. She faced discrimination from her white peers , and she created a coalition to petition the university’s segregation policy. When she completed her degree in zoology, there were no medical schools available for her, so she decided to apply to law school. As one of the seven women in University of Chicago’s Law School, Mink received her juris doctor in 1951.
Once she passed the bar exam in 1953, Patsy tried to seek work , but she could not find any firm to hire her due to gender discrimination. As a result, Mink with the help from her father helped establish a law firm, thus making her the first Japanese woman to practice law in Hawaii. To spur her continued interests in advocacy, Mink created an organization known as Everyman Organization, the base organization for the Young Democrats. Through this organization, Patsy Mink invested her efforts in trying to elect John Burns to Congress.
Influenced by her efforts, Mink began to run for public office. She served in the Hawaii Territorial Legislature as a representative. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, she served in Hawaii State Senate in 1962–1964 after her defeat in 1958. Through her ups and downs, Patsy began to form a strong platform for her future election to the US House of Representatives.
1964 marked a crucial milestone for women in politics. Patsy Mink became the first Asian-American woman to serve the US House of Representatives. She served a total of 12 years. During her time in the US House, she campaigned for eradication of gender discrimination in public education institutions by writing the Title IX Amendment. She also became the first Democratic woman to offer the response to the 1970 State of the Union Address. As an ardent advocate for education equality , Mink began to lay the framework for the Early Childhood Education Act as well as the Women’s Education Equality Act.
After she finished her sixth term, Mink returned back to Hawaii ,and she served on her city council and state legislature as a representative. However, in 2002, she passed away due to viral pneumonia.
Patsy Mink has established a legacy for all Americans for all races and genders. Undergoing racial and gender discrimination made Mink more bold and devoted in improving education equality. As a result, Congress named the Title IX Amendment to the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. She was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2014, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Patsy Mink.
Mink has left a lasting and influential mark on not only education, but politics itself:
“We have to build things that we want to see accomplished, in life and in our country, based on our own personal experiences … to make sure that others … do not have to suffer the same discrimination”.
Thank you, Patsy Mink.
This article has been published as part of a series of weekly writings by OCA Greater Phoenix’s student leaders for AAPI Heritage Month 2019.