Updated: October 4, 2022
The portrait of the late Congresswoman from Hawaiʻi, Patsy Mink, was unveiled today in the US Capitol during a ceremony to celebrate her legendary life and the 50th anniversary of her trailblazing legislation, Title IX.
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the portrait of her friend was a “beautiful tribute to an all American hero.”
The portrait by artist Sharon Sprung joins other portraits of women trailblazers hanging in the US Capitol, including Shirley Chisholm, the first African American Woman to serve in Congress and Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to ever serve in Congress.
During the ceremony, Speaker Pelosi said Rep. Mink was a “force of nature in delivering Title IX, and she defended it too.”
In 1975, Speaker Pelosi said Mink was leading the charge against an effort to exempt athletics from Title IX when she had to leave Washington to care for her daughter, Wendy, who had been in a car accident.
“She was able to put off the fight for another day … by force of her personality, the power of her brilliance, her persuasiveness,” Speaker Pelosi said. “Nobody could ever say no to Patsy Mink. That’s just the way it was. You could, but you’d be wasting time because eventually, you’d be saying ‘yes’.”
Speaker Pelosi gave her own example.
In 2000, Rep. Mink said to Rep. Pelosi: “I need you to come to Hawai’i to speak at my dinner to make sure nobody runs against me in the primary.”
Rep. Pelosi said she replied: “Well, when is it Patsy? I’d be so honored.”
The dinner was during the weekend when Rep. Pelosi had several of her own town meetings on Saturday and Sunday. When Rep. Pelosi said she couldn’t because of her own commitments, Rep. Mink asked: “Well what time are your town meetings?”
“I told her it began in the morning,” Speaker Pelosi recalled: “She said, ‘Here’s what you are going to do. You’re going to have your town hall meetings in the morning. You’re going to get the afternoon flight to Honolulu. You’re going to come. You’re going to speak. You’re going to get the red-eye back. And you’re going to be there for your town hall meetings on Sunday.’
“Who could say no to Patsy Mink?”
Rep. Pelosi said it was the first time she went to Hawaiʻi without “one toe touching the sand or the water.” But it was her “honor to do so” because Rep. Minkʻs contributions to Title IX were “not only historic; itʻs personal in the lives of women and girls in our country and their families. Again, she triumphed.
Rep. Mink overcame humble roots, rejection to attend medical school because she was a woman, and other prejudice and discrimination to earn admission to the University of Chicago Law School — as a foreign student since admission personnel didnʻt know Hawaiʻi was part of the United States.
“Upon graduation, she wasn’t offered a job by any Chicago firm. Sound familiar?” Sen. Hirono said. “Patsy knew things had to change. She was in her thirties when she decided to run for office.”
She first ran for the Hawaii territorial legislature in 1956, and became the first Asian American woman and first woman of color elected to Congress in 1965, serving 12 two-year terms with other public service positions in between terms.
“The discrimination she experienced firsthand fueled her work for decades to come, and her legacy that lasts today,” Sen. Hirono said.
In Congress, Rep. Mink was a champion of early education, led the enactment of Head Start, supported bilingual education opportunities and helped to create special education programs.
But she will be best known for her co-authoring Title IX, which was renamed in her honor in 2002 after her death.
The statute is one sentence long, with language by then-Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana. It said: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
US Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) said during the ceremony Thursday: “Thirty-seven words long, Title IX represented a sea change for women in our country. Fifty years later, Title IX is just as important today as it was when Patsy fought for it.”
The law applies to several areas of education, including the classroom, athletics, sexual assault and violence on campus, employment, discrimination, admissions, retaliation and financial assistance with tuition.
Over the years, the law also has been extended to other forms of gender and sex discrimination with issues involving the LGBTQ community.
The ceremony also was attended by the rest of the congressional delegation from Hawai’i (Sen. Brian Schatz, Rep. Ed Case and Rep. Kai Kahele); Mink’s daughter, Dr. Wendy Mink; trailblazing tennis icon Billie Jean King; US Rep. Judy Chu, CAPAC Chair; Education and Labor Chair Bobby Schott and House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgen.