WHM: Patsy Mink


Ben Albert, Athletics Editor

Patsy Mink was born on December 6, 1927 in Hawaii. A third-generation Japanese American, Mink was born and raised on the island of Maui and graduated from Maui High School as valedictorian in 1944. Despite her academic achievements, Mink was still the victim of racism, especially once she began applying to and attending colleges. She attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa for two years before transferring to the University of Nebraska. At Nebraska, Mink found herself in the midst of a very racist environment with segregation prevalent on campus. She helped work to remove these policies, but an illness forced her to return to Hawaii and complete her education there. 

After she finished school while in Hawaii, she decided to apply to medical school. She applied to twelve different medical schools with the goal of furthering her education, but she was remarkably rejected by all of them. With nowhere to go and no plan for the future, she made the decision to study law and was finally accepted into the University of Chicago Law School. It would turn out to be life changing as she met John Francis Mink there who would later become her husband. 

After graduating from law school, Mink was again faced with great hardships. Unable to find work and unable to take the bar exam, she challenged the sexist institution in place in Hawaii. She was able to take the bar exam, which she passed, but was unable to practice due to being married with a child. Mink decided that she wanted to make real change to the unfair system in place, so she ran for a seat in the territorial House of Representatives in Hawaii. She won, making her the first Japanese-American woman to serve in the territorial house and the first woman to serve in the territorial senate two years later. 

Mink would only continue to break glass ceilings as her political career continued. In 1964, she was elected to the US House of Representatives, making her the first woman of color and first Asian-American woman elected to Congress, as well as the first woman to represent the state of Hawaii. She helped introduce and pass the Early Childhood Education Act as well as the Elementary and Secondary Education. Mink would serve this role for 24 years, becoming a very important and influential figure in US politics. Patsy Mink is a role model for girls and women who aspire to be politicians, and her story can serve as a reminder to people to never give up on your dreams even when the odds are stacked against you.