Originally titled Women’s History Wednesday: Patsy Takemoto Mink for MyWSports Photo: Retrieved from The Patsy Takemoto Mink Center
U.S Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is currently serving her second term as representative of the second district in Hawaii. Despite being elected to the Hawai’i State Legislature at the age of 21, despite tours in the Middle East with the National Guard, when Gabbard ran for office in the 2nd District, she was sized up by voters. Gabbard recalls that during her campaigning, people would come up to her and say, “Hey. You know this is Patsy Mink’s seat, and you better do everything you can to uphold the values that she fought for.”
Ten years after Mink’s last term in office, her legacy was just as strong as ever. One of the values that Gabbard is responsible for upholding is now known as the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, or Title IX:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Women in classrooms, boardrooms, and playing fields owe a great deal to Patsy Takemoto Mink. Although her legacy reaches much beyond herself, her journey towards justice started in response to the discrimination she experienced as a woman.
A Different Game
Before Title IX, sports were very different for girls and women than what we know today. At Maui High School, Patsy Takemoto played basketball, but the rules at the time did not allow girls to cross the half court line. There were three defenders and three shooters, and rule enacted to limit the physical exertion of the game in favor of the delicacy of girls.
Off the court, Takemoto’s high school also dissuaded girls from participating in student government and certain science courses, offering instead secretarial and cooking classes for girls. This academic and cultural “tracking” did not phase the future Congresswoman, who was one of two females enrolled in Physics, and became the first female in school history to participate in student government.
Patsy was a sophomore in high school at the time Pearl harbor was attacked. The Hawaiian-born Japanese-American was able to maneuver through strong national Anti-Japanese sentiments, as well as gender discrimination, graduating as Student Body President and Valedictorian in 1944. Of her first election victory, Patsy reflected, “Like most of the decisions I’ve made in politics, it seemed like a good idea at that time. Why not? The football team backed me, that’s why I won.”
Takemoto continued to pursue academics after high school, a move that most of her peers overlooked to work or start a family. Takemoto again faced discrimination as a transfer to the University of Nebraska. At the time, the school relegated students of color to separate dormitories than their peers. Takemoto organized students, parents, alumni and members of the business community to stand against the racial discrimination practices of the school. She was elected President of the Unaffiliated Students of the University of Nebraska and led the charge against racial discrimination. According to Takemoto, she was quickly classified as “somebody who was going to stir up trouble”, at Nebraska (Cruz & Yamamoto, 2003). The Board of Regents ended the discrimination policy the year Takemoto enrolled.
Patsy ran into some health issues that required her to return home, the now-seasoned advocate graduated from the University of Hawai’i with degrees in Zoology and Chemistry.
Discrimination Changed Her Course
It was Patsy’s desire to attend Medical School after college, but there was one problem … nobody would accept her. Takemoto applied to, and was rejected from, over 12 medical school programs. Patsy was trying to crack into the 2% of spots offered to women at the time. She was also competing with veterans returning to their pre-war lives.
For a time, it would appear that patsy was destined to do precisely what her high school prepared her for, desk work. She settled for a job as a clerk-typist at Hickam Air Force base. The work was mindless, and Patsy left after a supervisor told her to “look busy – type your name over and over again if you have to.” her next attempt at a career was at the Honolulu Academy for the Arts where she was encouraged to consider law school. In July, Patsy applied to two law schools for the upcoming fall term.
The first immediately rejected her, while the University of Chicago accepted her, tallying her enrollment under the foreign student quota, “I got into Law School on the grounds that they considered me a foreigner” responded Patsy in an interview for the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year (1975). The Hawaiian-born continued, “someone in the law school had not read up their American History, and hadn’t realized that Hawaii was annexed in 1898, and that we were all American citizens.”
Takemoto enrolled at the University of Chicago, where she met her husband, John Mink. The two were married in 1951.
Fighting at Home
Eventually, the couple and their daughter, Wendy Mink, relocated to Hawai’i. Patsy Mink now faced discrimination in the state of her birth. Under a domicile law, Pasty was now considered a resident of the state of her husband’s birth. This domicile law made her ineligible to sit for the bar exam in Hawai’i . Mink challenged the sexist law, and was eventually the first Japanese-American female admitted to Hawai’i State Bar Association. Mink ended up beginning a private practice, after being denied a position with any other law firm. She was encouraged to find a profession with shorter work days, and some employers denied her a position for fear that she might have another child. Again, Mink’s personal experiences forged way for her to change the opportunities for all girls and women.
Bringing Title IX to Congress
In 1965, Mink was sworn in as the first woman of color to serve in Congress. Mink was elected to serve as a U.S Representative for Hawaii. Mink continued to speak against gender discrimination in education as a member of Congress. She joined the Education & Labor Committee in Congress and quickly realized that despite current laws and statutes, “girls and women were still being left out, systematically,” she said in an interview with fellow Congresswoman Martha Griffiths.
In 1972 Mink and Edith Green of Oregon co-authored what most know as Title IX as an attempt to level the playing field for women seeking admissions to college, graduate level programs, and seeking financial aid.
Over 40 years Later
In 1972, when Title IX was introduced, 42 percent of college students were female, and 30,000 girls participated in high school sports. In 2014, 56% of college students were women. Additionally, girls participating in high school sports increased 904%, and 456% in college.
Individual athletes, athletic programs, and professional teams benefitted from Title IX over the years.
Honoring Patsy T. Mink
The landmark legislation was named after the Hawaiian Congresswoman after her passing in 2002 with a unanimous voted by Congress.
In 2014, President Barack Obama, Hawai’i native, honored Mink with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During the ceremony, President Obama stated, “Every girl in little league, every woman playing college sports and every parent, including Michelle and myself, who watches their daughter on a field and in the classroom, is forever grateful to the late Patsy Takemoto Mink. I’m particularly grateful because she was my Congresswoman for a long time … Patsy was many firsts, including the first woman of color in Congress and, to those of us in Hawai‘i, she represented the very best of public service and the aloha spirit.”
Author’s Note: These sources were not linked to the original article, although provided
The Mother of Title IX by Kristina Chan
Makers Moment: Patsy Mink: A Woman Unafraid posted by Makers.com
How A Mother Changed the World for Her Daughter by Alicia W. Stewart
A Tribute to Patsy Takemoto Mink Tania Cruz & Eric K. Yamamoto/APLPJ Summer 2003
More on Title IX: