Japanese mink

Patsy Mink

Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink (パッツィー・T・ミンク; December 6, 1927September 28, 2002) was an American politician from the U.S. state of Hawaii. Mink was a Japanese American and member of the Democratic Party; she also was the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Mink served in the U.S. House of Representatives for a total of 12 terms, representing Hawaii's second congressional district. While in Congress she was noted for authoring the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act. Mink won her last election after her death in 2002. She was the first Asian American woman elected to Congress. She was also the first woman elected to Congress from the state of Hawaii, and became the first Asian American to seek the Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in the 1972 election, where she stood in the Oregon primary as an anti-war candidate.

In recognition of her contributions towards equal rights in the country, Congress named the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.


Mink was born in Paia on the island of Maui. There she was raised by her parents, second generation Japanese Americans or Nisei. Her father, Suematsu Takemoto, was a civil engineer. Her mother, Mitama Tateyama, was a homemaker. Suematsu graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1922, considered the first Japanese American to have graduated from said university. He would serve for several years as the only Japanese American in his field at the area of Maui. His candidacy for promotion would be passed over several times during his career, the positions offered to White Americans. He resigned his local position in 1945, aftermath of World War II, and moved to Honolulu with his family. There Suematsu established his own land surveying company.

Her maternal grandparents were Gojiro Tateyama and his wife Tsuru. Gojiro had been born in the Empire of Japan during the 19th century. He arrived in the Territory of Hawaii late in the century, employed as a worker at a sugar plantation. He later moved to Maui, initially employed as a worker for the East Maui Irrigation Company. Later Gojiro was employed as a store manager and filling station employee. He also delivered the mail throughout the backcountry of Maui. The Tateyamas lived in a shack by Waikamoi Stream. They had eleven children. William Pogue, employer of Gojiro at the Irrigation Company, arranged to have the girls of the Tateyama family educated at the Maunaolu Seminary, a boarding school for Christian girls. The Seminary was located at Makawao.

Early years

It was in her junior year of high school on Maui that Mink won her first election, becoming student body president. Her election to the position came with great challenges that would influence the means by which she would later govern in the territorial legislature and in Congress. In order to get elected, Mink had to overcome a great deal of anger from most of the student body, which hated anything Japanese-oriented. Just months before, Honolulu had been attacked by the Japanese. Mink also had to overcome the fact that she was the only female who had ever showed ambition for student office in the school's history. It was unheard of during the time. Mink orchestrated a strategy of impressing the various cliques on campus including the popular American football team. Her coalition building strategy worked and she was swept into office by a close margin. Her ability to build effective coalitions would later become her trademark accomplishment on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. In 1944, Mink graduated from high school as class valedictorian.

Educational adversity

Mink moved to Honolulu where she attended the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. She then transferred to the University of Nebraska where she once again faced discrimination. The university had a long standing racial segregation policy whereby students of color were forced to live in the same dormitories apart from the whites. An angered Mink organized and created a coalition of students, parents, administrators, employees, alumni, sponsoring businesses and corporations and ended the university's segregation policies.

After her successful war against segregation at the University of Nebraska, Mink moved back to Honolulu to prepare for medical school. She received from the University of Hawaii dual bachelor's degrees in zoology and chemistry. However in 1948, none of the twenty medical schools to which she applied would accept women. A disappointed Mink decided the best way to force medical schools to accept women would be through the judicial process. Mink decided to go to law school.

Mink applied to the University of Chicago Law School. Unusually, The Law School had admitted women from its inception in 1902 and Mink attended law school with several other women. While there, she met hydrologist John Mink (1924-2005), who was to become her husband and lifelong partner. Mink obtained her juris doctor in 1951.

Hawaii politics

Newly married, Mink settled in Honolulu, where she began practicing law. Also during this time, in 1952, Patsy gave birth to her daughter Gwendolyn, who was later to become a prominent author and educator on labor and women's issues. In 1956 as the Territory of Hawaii debated statehood, Mink was elected to the territorial legislature representing her district in the House of Representatives. In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the Union. In 1965, Mink became the first female minority to join the ranks of Congress. She served six consecutive terms. During the 1972 Presidential race, Mink ran in the Oregon primary as an anti-war candidate.

Title IX Amendment

Mink took what she learned in high school and built some of the most influential coalitions in Congress. Her most important coalition was one to support the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, which she wrote, prohibiting gender discrimination by federally funded institutions, an outgrowth of the adversities Mink faced through college.

Mink also introduced the first comprehensive Early Childhood Education Act and authored the Women's Educational Equity Act. All of these laws written by Mink were declared landmark laws by Congress as they advanced equal rights in America beyond what could be imagined during the time. Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act was renamed by President George W. Bush on 29 October 2002 to become the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Assistant Secretary of State

In 1976, Mink gave up her seat in Congress to run for a vacancy in the United States Senate. After she lost the primary election for the Senate seat to Spark Matsunaga, President of the United States Jimmy Carter appointed Mink to his cabinet as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She served alongside Cyrus Vance, Edmund Muskie, and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Later years

After her service in the Carter Administration, Mink settled in Honolulu, where she was elected to the Honolulu City Council. Her peers on the council eventually elected her Chairwoman, and she often butted heads with the controversial Mayor of Honolulu Frank Fasi.

In 1990, Mink was swept back into Congress, serving alongside Neil Abercrombie who represented the First Congressional District of Hawaii.

On August 30, 2002, Mink was hospitalized in Honolulu's Straub Clinic and Hospital with complications from chickenpox. Her condition steadily worsened, and on September 28, 2002, Mink died in Honolulu of viral pneumonia, at age 74. Hawaii and the nation mourned as President George W. Bush ordered all flags to be lowered to half staff in honor of her contributions towards the equal rights of Americans. Mink received a national memorial and was honored with a state funeral in the Hawaii State Capitol Rotunda attended by leaders and members of Congress. She is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Mink's death occurred one week after the 2002 primary election, too late for her name to be removed from the general election ballot. On November 5, 2002, Mink was posthumously re-elected to Congress. Her vacant seat was filled by Ed Case after a special election on January 4, 2003.


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