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.
Today marks the return to work after the Thanksgiving feasting and we sincerely hope you had a wonderful time with friends and family.
We want to take a chance to say again how thankful we are for you and your support of Girl Scouts of Western New York. The evidence of the Girl Scout difference is everywhere, including the recent election where 58% of the women elected to the House of Representatives were Girl Scouts. This is so incredible to hear and we know we can’t do it with you.
#GivingTuesday is the social revolution of generosity and it’s happening tomorrow! Your support helps us continue to make a difference in the lives of our girls. Consider giving today and join the global movement to celebrate giving back.
Thank you for all you do!
Today we offer our condolences to the family of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. We celebrate the work she did for our communities and the paths she cleared for equality.
At Girl Scouts, we talk a lot about being a G.I.R.L., or a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader. We want all of our girls to grow up knowing how strong and capable they are, and to us Louise Slaughter embodied this idea perfectly.
Her entire life was dedicated to seeing the needs and fighting for the necessary changes. She went after what she wanted and kept finding new ways to change her world. She never stopped leading and pushing for what was right and good, regardless of what anyone said or did against her.
The loss of her sister to pneumonia in childhood led her to obtain degrees in microbiology and public health. Later, her work and marriage brought her to New York where her involvement with community groups took off. Here she joined the League of Women Voters and Scouting in New York, but still saw greater needs. Her fight with the environmental group Perinton Greenlands Association to protect Hart’s Woods brought her into politics.
Slaughter ran her first race in 1971, losing to the incumbent Republican Walter G. A. Muench. She narrowed the margin in 1973, but fell for a second time to Muench. Nevertheless, she persisted, and finally in 1975 was voted to the Monroe County Legislature. She wouldn’t lose another election in her more than 40 years of public service.
From here, she became the regional coordinator in the Rochester area to then New York Secretary of State Mario Cuomo. In 1979, he was elected to lieutenant governor and she remained in her role.
As the 1982 election grew closer, Slaughter was approached by Democratic supporters encouraging her to run for State Assembly. After two successful terms, she made her move into the U.S. House of Representatives, a role she would hold for 30 years.
She became the first democrat elected in her district since 1910, and the first woman to represent Western New York.
Here are just a few highlights from everything Slaughter contributed while in office:
- $500 million for breast cancer research
- Mandated language in new legislation guaranteeing that women and minorities would be included in clinical health trials
- Helped establish Office of Research on Women’s Health in the National Institutes of Health legislation
- Co-authored the Violence Against Women Act and wrote the legislation to make the Office on Violence Against Women a permanent fixture in the United States Department of Justice
- Helped create the Women’s Progress Commemorative Committee through her work on the Women’s Progress Commemoration Act
- Introduced and fought to pass the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, what she believes is her greatest achievement
Slaughter saw the needs of so many, fighting for changes to help women, minorities, soldiers – all of us. Everything she did was in an effort to make the world better for everyone.
In our own Western New York, she worked to secure funding and helped improve our communities.
Because of all of this and more, we are heartbroken to hear this news. She was an amazing woman who supported our girls. She encouraged them to pursue their dreams and raise their voices for what they believe in.
May her legacy of being a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader carry on through others who see the issues in our world and believe they can make a difference.
Thank you, Louise, for what you did and how you inspired us.