Like many of us, Patsy Mink was born to an ordinary family. She was a third-generation Japanese-American raised on the island of Maui in Hawaii. However, her early life wasn't easy at all. She entered high school right before the Pearl Harbor attack on Honolulu.
This made her high school years a living hell, as she struggled with xenophobia and alienation from her community. Despite these hardships, she persevered and graduated as valedictorian of her class.
Her start in activism was prompted by her experience at the University of Nebraska, where she saw segregation among people of color and whites. This infuriated her, and she organized a coalition to protest and lobby to end the long-intact segregation policies. A few months later, Mink moved back to Hawaii to treat an illness and pursue a degree in medical school. Unfortunately, she was not accepted because of her gender or race. She then switched her attention to law--applying to law schools on the mainland. She enrolled in the University of Chicago Law School and finished with a Juris Doctor degree. Even with this though, she found it difficult to find a job as a married, Japanese attorney. Many law firms were hesitant to hire her even after she passed the bar exam in 1953. To support herself, she moved back to Hawaii and opened her own law firm, becoming the first Japanese-American woman in Hawaii to practice law.
From there, she was on the track to politics. Mink quickly became involved in local politics in Hawaii and became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Hawaii House in 1956. From there, she ran for U.S. Congress when Hawaii became a part of the U.S., but was defeated. A few years later, she ran again for a spot in the U.S. House of Representatives and won successfully.
She was the first woman of color elected to the House--ever. And her time there did not disappoint. Mink poured her energy into focusing on issues that were always important to her, such as education and gender equality. In 1970, she became the first Democratic woman to deliver a State of the Union response. In 1971, she became the first Asian-American woman to run for president. Although she did not win, her contributions in advocacy and focus on social issues will continue to play a prominent role in U.S. politics.
Patsy Mink worked her entire life to eradicate gender and racial discrimination, which she had experienced in her early years. Although she faced countless obstacles, Patsy Takemoto Mink never stopped until she was able to speak her voice and make a change in the world. Even then, she stayed true to her morals and what she believed in.
Author: Carina Sun
In Honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
We are bringing you the stories of inspirational Asian Americans from history.
5/30/20 - The Exceptional Example Ronald Takaki Set
5/27/20 - The Incredible Legacy of Kalpana Chawla
5/26/20 - When Marrying a Non-American Meant Losing Your Citizenship
5/25/20 - Honoring the 442nd Infantry Regiment
5/24/20- A Glimpse at Asian-Americans in Hollywood -- Miyoshi Umeki
5/22/20 - The Oriental Schools of San Fransisco
5/21/20 - Equality For All Colors - Yick Wo v. Hopkins
5/20/20 - An End To Police Brutality: Peter Yew's Stand
5/19/20 - Finding His Form: Linsanity in 2012
5/18/20 - Internment and Injustice: Fred T. Korematsu
5/17/20 - The Courageous Stand of Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo
5/16/20 - The Unbreakable Spirit of Wong Kim Ark
5/15/20- The Admirable Perseverance of Patsy Takemoto Mink
5/13/20 - The Lasting Legacy of Grace Lee Boggs
5/12/20-Remembering "The Forgotten" -- The Chinese migrants who built America's first Transcontinental railroad
5/11/20 - The Singing Neurosurgeon: Dr. Ayub Ommaya