Patsy Takemoto Mink

U.S. representative from Hawaii
Born: 12/6/1927
Birthplace: Paia, Maui, Hawaii
Patsy Takemoto Mink, Library of Congress

When she was first elected as a U.S. Democratic representative in 1964, Mink became the first Asian-American congresswoman. She served in the House until 1977, when she launched an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. She was appointed assistant secretary for Oceans and Environmental Affairs in 1977 and held the post for just over a year. She returned to Hawaii in 1978, and remained active in the local political arena. She reentered national politics in 1990, when she once again won a seat in Congress. As a U.S. representative, Mink focused on education, childcare, and the environment, and she championed equal opportunity, having been the victim of racial discrimination as a child and as an adult.

She grew up in Hawaii during World War II and was often ostracized because she was of Japanese descent. She graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in zoology in 1948. Her hopes of entering medical school were dashed when she learned that few medical schools admitted women. Instead, she enrolled in the University of Chicago Law School and graduated in 1951. She met her husband, John Mink, there.

Mink and her husband returned to Hawaii, and she started her own law practice and also taught at the University of Hawaii. Her political career began in 1956, when she was elected to the Territory of Hawaii House of Representatives. In 1959, she was elected to the Territory of Hawaii Senate. She ran for U.S. Congress after Hawaii became a state in 1959, but lost to Daniel Inouye. She gave a speech on civil rights at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. In 1962, she won a seat in the Hawaii State Senate.

Died: Honolulu, Sept. 28, 2002