Patsy T. Mink Papers
Patsy Mink was born in Paia Maui, Hawaii on December 6, 1927, the daughter of Suematsu and Mitama (Tateyama) Takemoto. She was valedictorian of the Maui High School Class of 1944. Mink began her collegiate studies at the University of Hawaii, but left after her sophomore year to attend Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The academic environment at Wilson did not suit Mink and she transferred to the University of Nebraska after one semester. There she instigated a letter-writing campaign against the University's racially discriminatory housing practices, a crusade that was ultimately successful. She was also elected president of the Unaffiliated Students of the University of Nebraska. However, her time in Nebraska was cut short by illness and she returned to Hawaii for treatment and to recuperate.
Mink resumed her studies at the University of Hawaii, majoring in zoology and chemistry, and in 1948 earned her B.A. She went on to earn her Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) from the University of Chicago in 1951 and later received honorary degrees from Chaminade College (Honolulu, Hawaii) in 1975, from Syracuse University in 1976, and from Whitman College (Walla Walla, Washington) in 1976. Just before graduating in 1951, she married John Francis Mink, a graduate student in geophysics at the University of Chicago. Their first and only child, Gwendolyn, was born in 1952. Soon after her birth, the Minks moved to Hawaii.
Mink became a member of the Hawaii Bar in June 1953 after having to prove that she was a resident of Hawaii. The court claimed that her legal domicile changed to Pennsylvania, John Mink's place of legal residence, when they got married even though she never had lived there. Though she gained admission to the Bar, in the ensuing months, she encountered much resistance from employers who balked at the prospect of hiring a married female lawyer with a child. She decided to open her own private practice in Honolulu, which she maintained until 1965 and again from 1987 to 1990.
In addition to operating her own law practice, Mink participated in a number of other activities and ventures. At the University of Hawaii, she was a lecturer in business law from 1952 to 1956 and again from 1959 to 1962. She served as counsel for the Territory of Hawaii House of Representatives in 1955, and went on to become a member of the Territory of Hawaii House of Representatives, serving from 1956 to 1958, and of the Senate in 1959. She continued her political service to Hawaii after it entered the Union in 1959, winning election to the Hawaii State Senate in 1962, where she served until 1964.
During this time Mink was very active in the Democratic Party. She helped found the Young Democrats Club of Oahu and served as Charter president from 1954 to 1956. In 1957 she was elected vice-president of the National Young Democratic Clubs of America and served until 1959. She was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1960, 1972, and 1980.
In 1964 Hawaii gained another Congressional seat due to reapportionment. Mink ran for the seat and won. She held the seat for the Second Congressional District until 1977. During this time in Congress, Mink was a proponent of women's rights, civil rights, education, and reducing poverty. She authored the Women's Educational Equity Act, opposed the Vietnam war, and supported Title IX of the Higher Education Act Amendments.
In 1976 Hiram Fong retired from his Senate seat. Mink chose to run for his seat and lost to Spark Matsunaga in the primary. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter appointed Mink Assistant Secretary of State for Ocean and International, Environmental, and Scientific Affairs. She resigned from this position in 1978. From 1979 through 1980 she was a member of the National Advisory Committee of the White House Council on Families. Mink also served as national president of Americans for Democratic Action from 1978 to 1981.
Mink and her husband then moved back to Hawaii. It was not long before she was back in the world of politics. From 1983 to 1987 Mink was a member of the Honolulu City Council, serving as chair from 1983 to 1985. She was also Chair of the Housing Commission from 1986 to 1987. In 1986 she ran for governor of Hawaii and lost in the primary. She ran for mayor of Honolulu in 1988 but lost again in the primary.
After the death of Senator Matsunaga in 1990, Representative Daniel Akaka was appointed Senator. Mink decided to run for his open seat, which was in her former district, and won. She served on many Congressional committees and was active in conferences, delegations, and caucuses, including the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues (1990-2002), serving as Chair of that Caucus's Task Force on Economic and Educational Equity from 1993 to 1994.
Mink earned many honors and awards throughout her distinguished career, including the Leadership for Freedom Award from Roosevelt College in Chicago in 1968, the Alii Award from the 4-H Clubs of Hawaii in 1969, the Freedom Award from the Honolulu chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1971, the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from the YWCA of St. Louis in 1972, the Creative Leadership in Women's Rights Award from the NEA in 1977, and the Human Rights Award from the American Federation of Teachers in 1975.
Patsy Mink died of viral pneumonia on September 28, 2002, in Honolulu, Hawaii. In November of 2002, she was posthumously elected to the One Hundred Eighth Congress.