A statue of Hawai’i’s former Congresswoman Patsy Mink was dedicated today.
Patsy Takemoto Mink served 12 terms as the U.S. Representative from Hawai’i’s first and second congressional districts during her political career that spanned from 1956 to 2002. Daughter, Wendy Mink, says the date of the dedication ceremony is significant.
“This would be her birthday. She would be 91 today. I think that she would be very happy to be remembered as somebody who fought every day to make sure that equality reached the entire population both in Hawai’i and across the nation. I think this is an inspiring monument with her words and ideas as well as her physical representation that I hope future generations will pause to think about.”
The story of Patsy Mink is well-known in Hawai’i: class valedictorian from Maui at age 16; turned down by medical schools; graduating from law school instead only to be rejected by local firms because of gender and race. But her perseverance paid off when, in 1972, she co-authored the Title IX Amendment for equal opportunity for women in education, later named after her. Associate Supreme Court Justice Sabrina McKenna was an early benefactor.
“Because of Title IX I was able to walk-on the Wahine basketball team and I was able to get a scholarship that paid my way through college. Although in 1972, only 7 percent of United States law school graduates were women, by 1979, when I entered my class over one-third of our class were women.”
In 2014, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Mink the Presidential Medal of Freedom. UH Richardson School of Law assistant professor, Troy Andrade, was one of the nominators. He
played a recording of Mink at the ceremony which he says captures her life’s work in her own words.
“What you endure is who you are. If you just accept and do nothing, then life goes on. But if you see it as a way for change, life doesn’t have to be this unfair. It can be better. Maybe not for me, I can’t change the past. But I can certainly help somebody else in the future so they don’t have to go through what I did.”
Daughter Wendy says her mother’s statue, on the lawn at the State Library on the corner of South King and Punchbowl Streets is a fitting location.
“My mother taught me to read here at the State Library when I was a child and we would come here on Saturdays and explore books and you know, it’s also situated among the many buildings in which she lived her professional life from Honolulu Hale to the Courts to I’olani Palace where the legislature met during Territorial days. So, it’s a comforting and familiar ground for her as well.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.