Patsy Mink, 1st woman of color elected to Congress, honored with portrait on Capitol Hill

Rep. Mink was key in ensuring Title IX, signed 50 years ago, became law.

June 23, 2022, 1:47 PM

Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, the first woman of color elected to Congress, now has a portrait to honor her legacy at the U.S. Capitol.

A painting of the late congresswoman was unveiled in Statuary Hall Thursday in a ceremony celebrating her trailblazing efforts in the fight against sexual discrimination in sports and education.

The portrait will be displayed as part of a series of portraits that recognize members of Congress who've increased diversity and representation in the House. Other portraits include former Reps. Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman in Congress, and Florence Kahn, the first Jewish woman in Congress.

"By force of her personality, the power of her brilliance, her persuasiveness, 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," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, talking about Mink's legislative work.

Most notably, Mink, first elected in 1964, was key in ensuring what's become known simply as Title IX -- was signed into law.

The law 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."

Following Mink's death, caused by viral pneumonia, in 2002 at age 74, Title IX was renamed the "Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act" in tribute.

Lawmakers, also commemorating the 50th anniversary of Title IX Thursday, spoke about the opportunities the legislation provided for women while also acknowledging that work remained, such as fighting for pay equity, ending campus sexual harassment, and securing access to health care for women.

"Of course, we still have a way to go for true equity, and we need to strengthen Title IX and protect the rights of every student to a welcoming and supportive school environment by working to build on the progress Congresswoman Patsy Mink worked so hard to secure," Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii said.

Mink's daughter, Dr. Gwendolyn Mink also used Thursday's ceremony as a call to action for Congress to continue to push toward equal opportunity.

"My mother held the view that justice requires eternal vigilance. We can't rest on our laurels. We must never greet accomplishment with complacency," Mink said.

"I think she would hope that her portrait would help inspire that rededication as a reminder to vigilance, a call to activism, and an inspiration to keep doing the work of U.S. democracy."

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus also tearfully told stories about the importance of her representation in Congress and what her portrait will symbolize for people who visit the Capitol.

"Growing up, I never thought I would be in elected office, let alone a member of Congress. It's because I never saw anyone who looked like me in such positions. So, it never even occurred to me that it was a possibility. But think of how different this will be with the installation of this portrait. So many young girls will see it as they walk through the halls of the U.S. Capitol. And they will see a shining example of what Asian American women and women of color can do as trailblazers in Congress," caucus chair Rep. Judy Chu said.

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