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Patsy Mink Life, Family, Goal, Career & Death:

Patsy Mink was a Democrat who was the first Asian American woman to be elected to Congress. There, she fought for more opportunities through Title IX and other laws.

How did Patsy Mink live?

Patsy Mink grew up in Hawaii, where she was treated badly because of her race and her gender. In 1964, she was nominated to the U.S. House of Representatives. During her time in office, she worked to pass laws that would make things easier for the generations that came after her. Mink died in September 2002. Her name was already on the ballot for the upcoming congressional election, and it was too late to take it off. After she died, she won a resounding victory in November.

Early Life:

Patsy Matsu Takemoto, who became Mink, was born on December 6, 1927, in Paia, Maui, Hawaii Territory, to Suematsu Takemoto and Mitama Tateyama Takemoto. Mink is a third-generation Japanese American. Both sets of her grandparents left Japan to work on sugar plantations in Hawaii.

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Mink raise up on the island of Maui, where Japanese American and native Hawaiian workers were treated differently by white plantation bosses. Eugene Takemoto was the name of her brother. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, many Japanese Americans living in Hawaii were taken into custody. Mink’s dad was addressed by the police however at that point let go.


Mink got his diploma from Maui High School in 1944. She was both the leader of her class and the top student. She went to Wilson College, the University of Nebraska, where she protested racial discrimination in student housing, and the University of Hawaii, where she got a bachelor’s degree in zoology and chemistry in 1948.


Mink’s first goal for his career was to become a doctor. She tried to get into several medical schools, but none of them would let her in. After being hurt by that, she decided to become a lawyer instead. She went to law school at the University of Chicago, where she was one of only two women in her class. She may have been accepted because the school thought she was an international student by mistake. Mink received her degree in 1951.

Start of a Job:

Mink couldn’t find a law firm in Chicago that would hire her, so she and her family moved to Hawaii. In 1953, she was the first Japanese American to be admitted to the Hawaii bar. Mink was the first woman to be licensed as an attorney in Hawaii. Even though she was a woman, a mother, and married to a man of a different race, she still ran into problems when she tried to get a job (her husband was white). Mink ended up starting her own business instead.

Democratic Party:

Mink also spent more time working for the Democratic Party because he couldn’t find a job. At the time, the party was growing in Hawaii, where Republicans ran the government before it became a state.

Career in Politics:

Mink was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives in 1956. After two year, she was selected to be a senator for the territory. After Hawaii turned into a state in 1959, Mink ran for Congress yet didn’t win. Then, in 1962, she was chosen for the Hawaii state senate.

Serve in the U.S. House of Representatives:

Mink was chosen to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964. She did this even though no local party supported her, which has been a problem for her throughout her career. She was the first Asian American woman, the first woman of colour, and the second woman from Hawaii to serve in Congress when she took her oath of office.

Civil Rights:

Mink’s top priorities in the legislature were civil rights, the rights of women, and helping with child care and education. Title IX was one of her most important works. She helped write this law, which says that public schools, colleges, and universities must treat men and women equally in education and other areas where the federal government gives money, like sports. Mink also worked for the Women’s Education Equity Act to be passed in 1974.

Mink, along with two other congresswomen, also protested the fact that they were not allowed to use the congressional gym. In 1970, she spoke out against Richard Nixon’s nominee for the Supreme Court, George Harrold Carswell. She talked about how he wouldn’t hear a case about a woman who was turned down for a job because she had young children. Mink said, “I’m here to testify against his confirmation because his appointment would be an insult to American women.” Because of what she did, the nomination fell through.

First Asian American: 

In 1972, Mink was the first Asian American to run for president. Her presidential campaign was centered on Oregon, where she ran for office to bring attention to the cause of ending the Vietnam War.

Assistant Secretary of State:

Mink ran for the Senate in 1976 but lost. He stayed in Congress until 1977. She was chosen to be the assistant secretary of state for oceans and international, environmental, and scientific affairs under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1978. From 1983 to 1987, Mink was a member of the Honolulu City Council. Before she was selected to the U.S. House again in 1990, she ran for governor of Hawaii and mayor of Honolulu and lost both times.

Start the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus:

During Mink’s second year in Congress, she worked to make sure that laws like Title IX stayed in place. Mank also helped start the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in 1994. After Anita Hill said that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her, she protested against his appointment to the Supreme Court. Mink stayed in Congress until September 2002, when she died. She was re-elected to Congress after her death, in 2002.

Personal Life:

Mink met John Francis Mink, who was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, while he was there. They got married in 1951, and in 1952, their daughter Gwendolyn was born.

Mink didn’t know she was taking part in a study of diethylstilbestrol while she was pregnant with her daughter. This was found out more than 20 years after her daughter was born. The goal of DES, a synthetic estrogen, was to stop miscarriages, but people who were exposed to it had a number of health risks, including cancer. Mink filed a lawsuit, and the case was later settled.


Mink died on September 28, 2002, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was 74 years old. Her death was caused by complications from chicken pox that led to pneumonia.


Title IX was changed to the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act after Mink died. In 2014, Barack Obama gave Mink the Presidential Medal of Freedom after he had died. Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority was a documentary about her life and what she did. The Patsy Takemoto Mink Foundation wants to carry on the work that she did all her life.

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