Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority

Local broadcast times (PBS / KQED): Sun, May 31, 2009 — 7:00 pm, Mon, Jun 1, 2009 — 1:00 am, Thu, Jun 4, 2009 — 8:00 am, Thu, Jun 4, 2009 — 11:00 am

Earlier this Spring, I had briefly plugged the documentary Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority when it was going to premiere at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. Next week you will be able to catch the documentary in your living rooms for free on PBS. Here is a brief description from KQED’s website:

“This program explores the life and times of the late US Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink (1927-2002), the first woman of color in Congress and the driving force behind Title IX, the landmark legislation that mandated gender equity in education. While Mink was considered a controversial figure at times, the film aims to provide a balanced view of her politics and actions. More importantly, her life offers a unique window onto the larger story of Hawaii and America in the 20th century, focusing on the nation’s shifting attitudes towards gender, race and politics.”

I cannot say enough great things about this documentary. Prior to screening the documentary, I literally knew nothing about Patsy Mink; as someone who follows and volunteers in politics and government, I was truly inspired and amazed at all the barriers that Mink faced as well as the barriers she broke. In college, Mink studied to become a doctor, but most medical schools she applied to at the time did not admit women. She later went on to the University of Chicago Law school and became a lawyer, and in 1965 became the first woman of color to be elected to Congress.

Mink is best known for being the primary author of Title IX, which was enacted in 1972 and states: 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. Title IX was later renamed in Mink’s honor as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Although Title IX is now mostly known its effects on collegiate athletics, Title IX had a profound effect on providing equal education opportunities for women. Today, woman make up over 50% of undergraduates at American colleges & universities and men and women are equally represented in both medical and law schools. Having been born in the 1970’s, I find it mind blowing that only decades ago, there was such rampant and blatant discrimination based on sex — and for that matter, race. If you have any interest in politics, fighting discrimination, breaking barriers or Asian Americans who made a difference, I highly, highly recommend you catching this documentary.

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Author: John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)