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Patsy Mink, first woman of color elected to Congress, to be honored with portrait in US Capitol

    The late Democratic legislator Patsy Mink (D, HI-2) will be honored for her historic work in Congress with the unveiling of her portrait in the U.S. Capitol later this month. 

    Mink became the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman in Congress after winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964. She was also the first woman elected to Congress from the state of Hawaii. 

    On June 23, Mink’s portrait will be unveiled during a ceremony spearheaded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA-12). Her portrait will be part of a series that recognizes former members of Congress who made history.  

    She initially served to represent Hawaii’s at-large congressional district from 1965 to 1977 and then the state’s second congressional district from 1990 until her death in 2002. 

    During her early years in Congress, Mink introduced important initiatives such as the first federal child-care bill under the Early Childhood Education Act and worked on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. 

    Mink also authored the early legislative draft for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex discrimination in education — including sports — in federally funded programs. Following her death in 2002, the federal civil rights law was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in her honor. 

    Her last term in office was similarly focused on pushing for legislation with importance to women, children, immigrants and minorities.

    In 2014, then-President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Mink with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

    “Every girl in Little League, every woman playing college sports and every parent, including Michelle and myself, who watches their daughter on a field or in the classroom, is forever grateful to the late Patsy Takemoto Mink,’’ Obama said during the awarding ceremony. 

    Rep. Judy Chu (D, CA-27), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said they pushed for the unveiling of Mink’s portrait in Congress “so that everybody who walks down the halls of the Capitol can see that an Asian American woman was a prominent leader who influenced this country to be better.” 

    According to Chu, the portrait and a proposal to build a national museum of Asian Pacific American history and culture would allow for a better appreciation of the contributions of Asian Americans. 

    Jean Sinzdak, associate director of the Center for American Women and Politics in the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, also highlighted the significance of Mink’s portrait. 

    “It’s important to showcase the Asian American leaders that have played a vital role in our country’s culture and policymaking,’’ she said. 

     

    Featured Image via Women Make Movies

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