“It is easy enough to vote right and be consistently with the majority. But it is more often more important to be ahead of the majority and this means being willing to cut the first furrow in the ground and stand alone for a while if necessary.”
—Senator Patsy Mink
Born this day in 1927: Patsy Takemoto Mink (1927–2002), first Asian American woman to serve as a member of Congress (D-Hawaii, 1965–1977; 1990–2002) and champion of liberal causes, especially education and gender equity
Mink was born Patsy Takemoto in Paia, Hawaii, in 1927. She graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in zoology and chemistry. She attended the Univeristy of Chicago Law School, receiving a J.D. in 1951. That same year she married John Francis Mink. The couple had one child.
Mink practiced law and served in the Hawaii Territorial Legislature and in the Hawaii Senate. After Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959, Mink sought federal office. In 1964 she won election to the U.S. House of Representatives. She became the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress.
Mink championed liberal causes. She was sometimes at odds with the Democratic leadership, refusing to sacrifice her principles to political expediency. One of her biggest achievements (there were many) was the 1974 Women’s Educational Equity Act. The act funded programs that promoted gender equity in education, including ending gender tracking and gender stereotyping in textbooks and school curricula. She was also a sponsor of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in institutions that receive federal funding.
“We must assure that schools all across this country implement and integrate into their curriculum, policies, goals, programs, activities, and initiatives to achieve educational equity for women and girls.”
Mink promoted other educational causes as well, including expansion of the federal student loan program, special education, and Head Start.
She opposed the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, seeing it as path to greater poverty. She proposed her own alternative, the Family Stability and Work Act. Her act “demeans no one because they are poor…and assures eligibility of federal support while allowing maximum flexibility to the states to provide for jobs, job training, and child care.” She was a friend to organized labor, promoted increasing corporate tax over taxing the working and middle class, promoted civil rights, worked for passage of the Family Medical Leave Act, and supported universal health care.
Mink won her final election, posthumously, in 2002, a few days after her death. In 2003 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
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