Patsy Mink

Patsy Matsu Mink (née Takemoto; December 6, 1927 – September 28, 2002) was an American attorney and politician from the U.S. state of Hawaii. Mink was a third-generation Japanese American, having been born and raised on the island of Maui. After graduating as valedictorian of the Maui High School class in 1944, she attended the University of Hawaii at Mānoa for two years and subsequently enrolled at the University of Nebraska, where she experienced racism and worked to have segregation policies eliminated. After illness forced her to return to Hawaii to complete her studies there, she applied to 12 medical schools to continue her education but was rejected by all of them. Following a suggestion by her employer, she opted to study law and was accepted at the University of Chicago Law School in 1948. While at university, she met and married a graduate student, John Francis Mink. When they graduated in 1951, Patsy Mink was unable to find employment and after the birth of their daughter in 1952, the couple moved to Hawaii.

Patsy Mink
Official portrait, c.1994
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Hawaii
In office
September 22, 1990  September 28, 2002
Preceded byDaniel Akaka
Succeeded byEd Case
Constituency2nd district
In office
January 3, 1965  January 3, 1977
Preceded byThomas Gill
Succeeded byDaniel Akaka
ConstituencyAt-large Seat B (1965–1971)
2nd district (1971–1977)
Member of the Honolulu City Council
from the 9th district
In office
December 1, 1982  December 1, 1986
Succeeded byJohn DeSoto
Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
In office
March 28, 1977  May 1, 1978
PresidentJimmy Carter
Preceded byFrederick Irving
Succeeded byThomas R. Pickering
Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
January 3, 1975  January 3, 1977
LeaderCarl Albert
Preceded byLeonor Sullivan
Succeeded byShirley Chisholm
Personal details
Patsy Matsu Takemoto

(1927-12-06)December 6, 1927
Hāmākua Poko, Hawaii Territory, U.S.
DiedSeptember 28, 2002(2002-09-28) (aged 74)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Resting placeNational Cemetery of the Pacific
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)John Mink
EducationWilson College
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
University of Hawaii at Manoa (BS)
University of Chicago (JD)

When she was refused the right to take the bar examination, due to the loss of her Hawaiian territorial residency upon marriage, Mink challenged the statute. Though she won the right to take the test and passed the examination, she could not find public or private employment because she was married and had a child. Mink's father helped her open her own practice in 1953 and around the same time she became a member of the Democratic Party. Hoping to work legislatively to change discriminatory customs through law, she worked as an attorney for the Hawaiian territorial legislature in 1955. The following year, she ran for a seat in the territorial House of Representatives. Winning the race, she became the first Japanese-American woman to serve in the territorial House and two years later, the first woman to serve in the territorial Senate, when she won her campaign for the higher house. In 1960, Mink gained national attention when she spoke in favor of the civil rights platform at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

In 1964, Mink ran for federal office and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She was the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress, and also the first woman elected to Congress from the state of Hawaii.[1] She served a total of 12 terms (24 years), split between representing Hawaii's at-large congressional district from 1965–77 and second congressional district from 1990–2002. While in Congress in the late 1960s, she introduced the first comprehensive initiatives under the Early Childhood Education Act, which included the first federal child-care bill and worked on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. In 1970, she became the first person to oppose a Supreme Court nominee on the basis of discrimination against women. Mink initiated a lawsuit which led to significant changes to presidential authority under the Freedom of Information Act in 1971. In 1972, she co-authored the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act,[1] later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002.

Mink was the first East Asian-American woman to seek the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. She ran in the 1972 election, entering the Oregon primary as an anti-war candidate. She was the federal Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs from 1977 to 1979. From 1980 to 1982, Mink served as the president of Americans for Democratic Action and then returned to Honolulu, where she was elected to the Honolulu City Council, which she chaired until 1985. In 1990, she was again elected to the U.S. House, serving until her death in 2002. During her second six terms in office, she continued to work on legislation of importance to women, children, immigrants, and minorities.

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