This Month in History

This Month in History: Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act

Congresswoman Patsy Mink. Photo courtesy Wendy Mink.

Congresswoman Patsy Mink. Photo courtesy Wendy Mink.

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

June 23, 2012, marked the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, otherwise known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Just five years after Hawai’i became America’s fiftieth state, and in the same year as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, citizens of Hawai’i elected the first Asian American woman to Congress, Patsy Takemoto Mink. Representative Mink served in Congress for 12 terms, representing the first and second congressional districts of Hawai’i.

One of her most notable and enduring achievements is the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act that came into effect on June 23, 1972, and it 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.

Mink herself faced enormous discrimination while applying to medical school, as many medical schools did not accept women. Altering her life ambitions, she was accepted by the University of Chicago Law School and received a J.D. in 1951.

While in the House of Representatives, Mink made equal access to higher education a priority. Indeed, after the death of Representative Mink in 2002, Congress named the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act the “Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.”

In 2007, Representative Hirono (D-HI), sponsored an official resolution celebrating the 35th anniversary of Title IX. In her floor speech, Representative Hirono states, “In 1972, only 9 percent of law degrees were earned by women.  Today women earn almost half of all JDs.  In fact, I am one of the many women able to go to law school because of Title IX.  The story is similar for MDs and PhDs.”

Forty years later, women and other minorities still face myriad barriers in the workplace and in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. It seems, then, the Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act is just as important today as it was in 1972.

References:

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