we can do it


April is Celebrate Diversity Month and I would like to kick of the month with celebrating the life of Patsy Mink who was the first non European woman elected to Congress.


What follows is her biography from Wikipedia.

Mink was born in Paia on the island of Maui. She was raised by her parents on Maui.

She attended Maui High School and in her Junior year, Mink won her first election to become student body president. Her election to the position came with great challenges. She developed approaches to confront these challenges, and she drew on these experiences when later serving in the territorial legislature and in Congress. For example, the month before the election, Honolulu was attacked by Japan. As a consequence, most of the student body was uncomfortable with anything that was Japanese-oriented. Therefore, in order to get elected, Mink had to overcome these hard feelings. Mink also had to cope with being the only female who had ever showed ambition for student office in the school’s history, something that was unheard of at the time. Mink orchestrated a strategy of impressing the various cliques on campus, including the popular football team. Her coalition-building strategy worked and she won a close election. In 1944, Mink graduated from high school as class valedictorian.

Mink moved to Honolulu where she attended the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. She spent one semester (Sept. 1946-Jan. 1947) enrolled at Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA. She then transferred to the University of Nebraska where she once again faced discrimination. The university had a long-standing racial segregation policy whereby coloured students lived in different dormitories from the white students. This annoyed Mink, and she organized and created a coalition of students, parents, administrators, employees, alumni, sponsoring businesses and corporations. Mink and her coalition successfully lobbied to end the university’s segregation policies.

After her successful war against segregation at the University of Nebraska, Mink moved back to Honolulu to prepare for medical school. She received bachelor’s degrees in zoology and chemistry from the University of Hawaii. However, in 1948, none of the twenty medical schools to which she applied would accept women. A disappointed Mink decided the best way to force medical schools to accept women would be through the judicial process. Mink decided to go to law school.

Mink applied to the University of Chicago Law School. Unusually, the school had admitted women from its inception in 1902, and Mink attended law school with several other women. Mink obtained her Juris Doctor degree in 1951.
While at law school, Mink met hydrologist John Mink (1924–2005), who was to become her husband and lifelong partner.

Newly married, Mink settled in Honolulu soon after, where she began practicing law. In 1952, Patsy gave birth to her daughter Gwendolyn, who later became a prominent author and educator on labor and women’s issues.

As the Territory of Hawaii debated statehood in 1956, Mink was elected to the Hawaii Territorial Legislature representing her district in the territorial House of Representatives. She then served in the territorial Senate. In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the Union. From 1962-1964, Mink served in the Hawaii State Senate.

At the 1960 Democratic National Convention, a speech by Hawaii delegate Mink persuaded two-thirds of the party to keep their progressive stance on the civil rights issue.

U.S. Representative

Patsy Mink during her first career in Congress

Mink with Lyndon Johnson after his trip to Hawaii for a conference on the Vietnam War, February 1966.
In 1965, Mink became the first female of an ethnic minority to join the ranks of Congress. She served six consecutive terms. During the 1972 Presidential race, Mink ran in the Oregon primary as an anti-Vietnam War candidate.

Mink took what she learned in high school and built some of the most influential coalitions in Congress. Her most important coalition was one to support the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, of which she was one of the principal authors and sponsors, prohibiting gender discrimination by federally funded institutions, an outgrowth of the adversities Mink faced through college.

In 1970, Mink became the first Democratic woman to deliver a State of the Union response.[8]

Mink also introduced the first comprehensive Early Childhood Education Act and authored the Women’s Educational Equity Act. All of these laws written by Mink were declared landmark laws by Congress as they advanced equal rights in America beyond what could be imagined during the time. Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act was renamed by President George W. Bush on 29 October 2002 to become the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act; she co-authored and sponsored the Act while in the House. In 1975 she was the chief sponsor of HR 9924, granting $5 million in total tax-payer contributions ($22 million in 2016 dollars) for both the state and National Women’s Conference[9] which President Gerald Ford signed into law.

From 1975 to 1977, during the 94th Congress, Mink was elected to a position in the House Democratic leadership, as Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
In 1976, Mink gave up her seat in Congress to run for a vacancy in the United States Senate. After she lost the primary election for the Senate seat to Spark Matsunaga, President Jimmy Carter appointed Mink as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She served under Cyrus Vance and Edmund Muskie.

Return to U.S. Representative
After her service in the Carter Administration, Mink settled in Honolulu, where she was elected to the Honolulu City Council. Her peers on the council eventually elected her Chairwoman, and she often butted heads with the controversial Mayor of Honolulu Frank Fasi.

In 1990, Mink won back a seat in Congress, serving alongside Neil Abercrombie who represented the First Congressional District of Hawaii.

On August 30, 2002, Mink was hospitalized in Honolulu’s Straub Clinic and Hospital with complications from chickenpox. Her condition steadily worsened, and on September 28, 2002, Mink died in Honolulu of viral pneumonia, at age 74.

Hawaii and the nation mourned; President George W. Bush ordered all flags lowered to half staff in honor of her contributions toward the equal rights of Americans. Mink received a national memorial and was honored with a state funeral in the Hawaii State Capitol Rotunda attended by leaders and members of Congress. She is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In 2007, Central Oahu Regional Park on Oahu was renamed “Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park” in her honor.

Mink’s death occurred one week after the 2002 primary election, too late for her name to be removed from the general election ballot. On November 5, 2002, Mink was posthumously re-elected to Congress. Her vacant seat was filled by Ed Case after a special election on January 4, 2003.

In 2002 Congress renamed the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act (which Mink coauthored) to the “Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.”

Documentary films about Mink’s life and role in Title IX include: Rise of the Wahine, directed by Dean Kaneshiro and Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority (2008), directed by Kimberlee Bassford.

She received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on November 24, 2014.





About Bernadette

I live in the small town of Haddonfield, NJ. I am at an age in my life when I seem to spend time thinking and musing about life. These musings are usually stimulated by my walks through Haddonfield, my reading of books and fellow bloggers, and my interaction with my group of fabulous family and friends.

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