Patsy Mink

By Hatty Lee May 27, 2009

Trailer for Ahead of the Majority. Patsy Mink. Who is that? I had no clue until about two months ago. While sitting in a movie theater waiting for A Song for Ourselves (Tad Nakamura’s documentary on Chris Iijima) to start playing, a short documentary called Ahead of the Majority began rolling. And did I get schooled in Asian American and women’s history. As the movie continued on, I thought, "I should really know who this is. How come I’ve never heard about her?" But I was definitely amazed and proud of all the battles Patsy Mink fought and won, starting from high school until she passed away in 2002. During the 1940’s, she attended the University of Nebraska and faced harsh discrimination—based on race and gender. The university had a racial segregation policy, and she had been assigned to the International Student dorm because the school didn’t know where to place an Asian American student. Mink challenged the policy and the next year it was rescinded. After graduating, she wanted to pursue a career in medicine. But after being rejected at all schools she applied to, due to gender, Mink decided on law school. She was only one of two women in her graduating class at the University of Chicago. Patsy Mink was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress and the first woman elected to Congress from the state of Hawai’i. She was also the first Asian American to seek the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972. More than just holding political office, Mink fought hard for the rights of girls and women. She was a leader in the passage of Title IX Education Amendment (later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act). Title IX allowed equal opportunities for girls and women in high school and college academics and athletics. She also introduced the Early Childhood Education Act which would provide federal programs and funding for pre-school and kindergarten education, as well as the Women’s Educational Equity Act. Mink was also a fierce crusader in promoting policies that addressed the realities of welfare and poverty. To learn more about Patsy Mink, you can check out Ahead of the Majority on PBS. They will be airing it over the next few weeks. Check here to see when its airing in your area.