Mink, Patsy (1927—)

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Mink, Patsy (1927—)

U.S. congressional representative from Hawaii. Name variations: Patsy Takemoto Mink; Patsy T. Mink. Born Patsy Matsu Takemoto on December 6, 1927, in Paia, Maui, Hawaii; daughter of Suematsu Takemoto and Mitama Tateyama Takemoto; graduated from University of Hawaii at Honolulu, B.A. in zoology and chemistry, 1948; earned law degree at University of Chicago, 1951; married John Francis Mink (a geologist); children: Gwendolyn Rachel (known as Wendy) Mink (who is a professor of political science at University of California, Santa Cruz).

Elected to Hawaii House of Representatives (1956); elected to Hawaii state senate (1958); elected to U.S. House of Representatives (1964); served on Honolulu City Council (1983–87); returned to U.S. House of Representatives (1990).

Democrat Patsy Mink's long political career has centered on defending the rights of minorities and women and on advocating governmental support of varied educational opportunities. Born in 1927 in a small village on the Hawaiian island of Maui, she attended a local high school, then went on to Wilson College in Pennsylvania and the University of Nebraska before returning to Hawaii to graduate from the University of Hawaii in 1948. After earning her law degree from the University of Chicago in 1951 she returned home to Hawaii that year to open a law practice, and embarked on what eventually proved to be a successful and fast-paced career. Mink lectured at the University of Hawaii's law school, and served as the attorney of the Hawaii House of Representatives in 1955. Her involvement in politics had begun with participation in the Young Democrats; by 1956, she was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives, and by 1958 to Hawaii's Senate. Hawaii, then a U.S. territory, had been seeking statehood for many years, and in the state legislature Mink worked for the statehood movement while also concentrating on education and "equal pay for equal work" issues.

After Hawaii became a state in 1959, Mink did not win the Democratic nomination for the at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but in 1964 she won one of Hawaii's two House seats. Over the next several years, she served on the Committee on Education and Labor, the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, and the Budget Committee. Her committee assignments blended well with the work she had focused on in the Hawaii state legislature. She introduced or sponsored many acts such as the first child-care bill and legislation establishing programs like student loans, bilingual education, and Head Start. Mink advocated education for the disabled, school lunch programs, and emergency school aid for schools trying to wipe out segregation, and also worked for the successful passage of Title IX, which enforced parity in public schools' spending of federal funds for boys' and girls' sports. In 1972 she was invited by a group from the state of Oregon to enter the presidential primary there, and attained 2% of the vote. She supported the political and economic development of the Trust Territory in the Pacific, and as chair of the Subcommittee on Mines and Mining she was the lead author of the Strip-Mining Act and the Mineral Leasing Act of 1976.

Mink supported President Lyndon Johnson's domestic program, but was an early critic of his administration's expansion of the American military presence in Vietnam. She later opposed the Vietnam War, a position that contradicted the feelings of many of her constituents. She also rejected Johnson's request for a tax increase, fearing that the additional revenue would be used for military rather than social purposes. In defense of equal rights for women, Mink authored and sponsored the Women's Educational Equity Act in 1974. She was the only congressional member to testify against Richard M. Nixon's unsuccessful nomination of G. Harrold Carswell to the U.S. Supreme Court. It would be "an affront to the women of America," she said, since Carswell had denied women's employment rights while an appellate judge.

Patsy Mink remained active in politics after losing a bid for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate in 1976. She was an assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental affairs in 1977 and 1978, and over the next three years served as president of the Americans for Democratic Action. Returning to Hawaii, she was elected to the Honolulu City Council and served from 1983 until 1987, while chairing the council until 1985. After the appointment of Hawaii Representative Daniel Akaka to the Senate and his resignation from the House of Representatives, Mink won a special election in 1990 to fill the vacancy. She was consistently reelected throughout the 1990s, serving on the Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Committee on Government Reform, and was the democratic regional whip in 1997–98.


Carabillo, Toni , and Judith Meuli. The Feminization of Power. Los Angeles, CA: The Fund for the Feminist Majority, 1988.

Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. Compton's New-Media, Inc., 1996.

Office of the Historian. Women in Congress, 1917–1990. Commission on the Bicentenary of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1991.

Jacquie Maurice , Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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Mink, Patsy (1927—)

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