Marylyn M. Feaver
On June 23, America will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Many women of achievement today, not just athletes, are beneficiaries of this act which mandated equity for women in education.
My daughters, a physician and an attorney, might never have been accepted to medical and law schools had it not been for Title IX and other enabling regulation and legislation. The futures of my granddaughters as independent women are more secure because of Title IX.
The person largely credited for passage of this act was a third generation Japanese American Congresswoman from Hawaii. Patsy Takemoto Mink was the first woman of color to serve in Congress. After she died unexpectedly in 2002, a sitting Congresswoman, Title IX was named “The Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act”. In 2014 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Congresswoman Mink was a high-school sophomore on the island of Maui when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Valedictorian of her class, she enrolled at the University of Hawaii. She transferred to a Pennsylvania college and then the U of Nebraska. Finding discrimination in both colleges, she chose to fight the segregated housing of colored American students at Nebraska which was practice was rescinded. She returned to Hawaii for medical reasons and graduated in zoology and chemistry from the University of Hawaii.
She applied to 12 medical schools, receiving 12 rejections. She was accepted to the University of Chicago Law school where she received her juris doctorate.
Mink reached adulthood when the dominant Republican party was confronted by second-generation immigrants who had fought in World War II and who had used the GI Bill to complete or enhance their educational credentials. Running as Democrats these almost all young men wrenched victory from established politicians.
She was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives as a Democrat, but always followed an independent course, focused on social justice, civil rights and access to education for all.
Though I was seven years younger, she took me under her wing. In college I had helped organize College Federation of Democratic Clubs on 18 Oregon campuses and had barnstormed Oregon with US Sen. Estes Kefauver in his second bid in 1956 for President.
I returned to the University of Hawaii as a graduate student just before statehood. At her expense, she invited me to shadow her as a delegate, but more importantly as member of the platform committee, to the 1960 National Democratic Party Convention. Highly profiled and sought after at the national level, she was tasked by that committee to give the major address on Civil rights.
She ran for US Congress against war hero Daniel Inouye and asked me to co-chair the campaign. We lost. She ran again, to serve as US Congresswoman, not all consecutively, for 24 years.
In Oregon, passionate as we were about issues, we were constantly chided by the state Democratic chair that the first principle of a Liberal is getting elected. In Hawaii, I followed a woman who modeled risk for what is right.
At age 88, I am convinced that America will continue to produce leaders as Patsy Takemoto Mink, who have the moral strength to speak and act accordingly, risking party and electoral support. Her success in enacting legislation which has radically changed the prospects for women and the underserved refutes for me that bugaboo mantra: The first objective of a politician is to get elected.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Marylyn M. Feaver has lived not quite half a century in Quincy. She has just read Fierce and Fearless, a biography of Patsy Takemoto Mink, released in May and authored by Judy Tzu-Chun Wu and Gwendolyn Mink.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Send letters to the editor (up to 200 words) or Your Turn columns (about 500 words) to email@example.com. Please include your address for verification purposes only, and if you send a Your Turn, also include a photo and 1-2 line bio of yourself. You can also submit anonymous Zing!s at Tallahassee.com/Zing. Submissions are published on a space-available basis. All submissions may be edited for content, clarity and length, and may also be published by any part of the USA TODAY NETWORK.