More than just the first Asian-American elected to congress, Patsy was the first woman of color to make it there, period. Overall, she was a member of Congress in the House of Representatives 13 times, spanning the years from 1965 to 2002.
“Patsy Mink was a vibrant, passionate, and effective voice for the principles she believed in. Her passing is a significant loss for our committee, the people of Hawaii and the people of the United States.”
John Boehner of Ohio said that of Patsy after her passing in 2002. When you read through her political history, you can see just how right he was.
Born in Paia, a Hawaii Territory, in 1927, Patsy was a Japanese-American raised by her father Suematso Takemoto, a civil engineer, and her mother Mitama. Striving for excellence at a young age, she graduated from high school at the top of her class and served as class president.
Early aspirations brought her stateside to Pennsylvania and Nebraska, where she attended Wilson College and the University of Nebraska, respectively. She completed her BA in chemistry and zoology from the University of Hawaii with plans to become a doctor. When no medical school would accept her, she turned her sights to the law.
By 1951, she became the first Hawaiian nisei woman to graduate with a JD From the University of Chicago Law School. She then moved back to Honolulu with her husband, John Francis Mink, and their daughter Gwendolyn.
The discrimination still followed her, only this time it was due to her interracial marriage. Finding no luck getting a job in a law firm, Patsy began a private law practice and worked as lecturer in business law at her alma mater, the University of Hawaii.
In 1954, Patsy founded the Oahu Young Democrats and was working as an attorney for Hawaii’s house of representatives. One year later, she was elected to join them and served there before entering the territory’s senate in 1958.
Everything changed a year later when Hawaii achieved its United States statehood. Patsy now saw herself in the only At-Large seat available for Hawaiians in the U.S. House of Representatives. She didn’t receive the support of her party due to her inability to have her political agenda influenced and lost in the primary.
Five years later, a second seat was created and Patsy again went for it. Without the standard political support, her grassroots campaign was led by her husband and relied on volunteers. Later, with the support of the newly elected Lyndon B. Johnson , Patsy was elected and became the first Asian-American woman in Congress.
What she continued to do is amazing. Instead of summarize all of her political efforts, here’s a brief list to give you an idea:
- First childcare bill and legislation to establish bilingual education, special education, Head Start, sabbaticals for teachers, and student loans
- She tried to establish a bill that would create a national daycare system to assist low-income households, but opponents believed it encouraged mothers to work out of the home and leaned toward a more “communal” approach to parenting. The bill passed in the House and Senate, but President Nixon vetoed it, leading to one of Patsy’s greatest disappointments
- Worked to support immigration reform bills that would aid in preserving reunification provisions, specifically for Asian Pacific Americans
- Helped educate Americans about the internment of its Japanese people during World War II
- Constantly advocated for women’s issues, including equal rights
- Her Women’s Educational Equity Act sought to provide $30 million in funds to assist with promoting gender equity in schools, increasing work and education opportunities for women, and to get rid of gender stereotypes in school materials
- She worked on Title IX to open up athletic opportunities for women
To learn more about this amazing women, check out these resources:
The 2018 midterm elections gave women a reason to celebrate: out of the 266 women who ran for office, nearly half of them won their seats for a record-setting number of women in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
Even better? Of those elected to the 116th Congress, 60% were involved with our program. An impressive 74% of our women senators and 57% of women representatives and delegates are Girl Scout Alums.
The number of women governors in the United States increased by 6% and 56% of them were Girl Scouts.
More than just numbers, 2018 boasted many historic firsts for women:
- Kyrsten Sinema became Arizona’s first female senator, defeating Martha McSally. Both are Girl Scout alums.
- Ayanna Pressley, Girl Scout Alum, is Massachusetts’s first black congresswoman.
- Texas has its first Latina congresswomen with Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar, Girl Scout Alum.
- Marsha Blackburn is Tennessee’s first woman senator.
- The first Muslim women EVER were elected to Congress – Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
- We also have the first Native American women in Congress – Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids.
- Kristi Noem was elected as South Dakota’s governor, becoming the first woman to hold the position.
- Both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Girl Scout Alum, and Abby Finkenauer were elected to Congress and stand as the youngest women ever to serve.
- Jahana Hayes is Connecticut’s first black congresswoman.
- Stacey Abrams, Girl Scout Alum, was narrowly defeated in the Georgia gubernatorial race, but stands as the first black woman to be a major-party gubernatorial nominee in the United States.
We’re so proud of what our sisters accomplished this year and how they’re continuing to break the boys club mold. But our work isn’t done.
Even with this year’s exciting statistics and stories, the gender gap is still an issue in our elected offices. Between governors, senators, and representatives, there are 591 offices. Only 136 are currently held by women, meaning they hold less than 25% of the positions available.
The reason women don’t hold more positions is because they aren’t running as frequently as men. More than 65% of girls say they’re interested in politics, yet something stops them from running for office as adults. Some of those reasons include:
We know our Girl Scouts gain the confidence they need to succeed in their lives. The 2018 midterm election results are proof that Girl Scout show’s girls they’re capable of more by encouraging them to be leaders and sure of themselves.
Here’s to working toward an equal future, where women being good enough or smart enough to run for office isn’t even a consideration because they know what they’re capable of. The future is female.