She Pushed the Door Wide Open

I owe a lot of who I've become to one woman, or at least to her work on my behalf. No, I'm not talking about my mom, grandmother, or another friend or relative. While they have all be hugely influential in my life, if it hadn't been for this one woman...well, I don't know where I'd be. Or millions of other women. It was because of her tenacity and persistence that I had experiences that shaped who I've become. I owe a great big, boisterous, emphatic, and loud shout of "Thank you!" to her. And, I bet you do, too. 

Photo credit: www.makingwavesfilms.com

Photo credit: www.makingwavesfilms.com

I'm talking about Patsy Mink. I'd bet that most of us don't know who Patsy Mink was. And truthfully, before I started GIRLS CAN! CRATE I didn't know much about her either. I knew of her work, but I didn't know the woman behind the bill. You see, Patsy Mink was a United States Representative and she was one of the authors and sponsors of Title IX. At its core, Title IX was and is about balancing the academic scales between men and women. It's about schools not being able to discriminate based on someone's sex. It helped women to have equal access to education, pursue athletics, prevent discrimination against pregnant women in education, protect against sexual harassment, and so much more.  For more details about what Title IX is and all that it covers, click here. When the bill passed in 1972, it was groundbreaking and glass-ceiling smashing. It literally opened doors for women...doors into classrooms, doors into locker rooms, and doors into a better future because of equal access to education. And what of its author? Why was this important to her?

Patsy Mink is absolutely fascinating! As a Japanese-American, Patsy herself faced discrimination in her home state of Hawaii on the island of Maui following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. People were wary of anyone of Japanese descent and Patsy wasn't immune to this. Still, when she got something in her head, she went after it. She wanted to be president of her class in school. Not only was she Japanese, but she was also a female. There'd never been a female president before. That didn't stop Patsy, though. She campaigned hard and she eventually won! Fast forward to the University of Nebraska where Patsy was going to college. There, she faced discrimination once more as an Asian American. Because of the school's segregation policies, Patsy and other minorities had to reside in separate dorms from white students. Patsy once again called on her tenacity, formed a coalition, and successfully lobbied for the school to overturn it's policy. You'd think Patsy wouldn't face anymore challenges like this, but that's not true.

Following college, she applied to 20!! different medical schools, but didn't get into any of them based on the fact that she was a woman. Did she give up? No, she went to law school because she knew that she could make changes through law. However, upon getting her law degree she was unable to get a job at a law firm because she was a married woman. Then, she tried to start her own practice, but only residents of Hawaii could take the bar exam. And even though Patsy was born and raised in Hawaii, her husband hadn't, making her a nonresident of Hawaii. As we can guess, Patsy fought this and won the right to take the bar exam. What does a woman who has faced racism and sex discimination do after all that? Why run for Congress of course! Patsy was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1965 and became the first female of an ethnic minority to be elected to Congress. That's one tenaciously persistent woman!

I imagine her fight against sex discrimination in education was because she grew tired of the constant doors being slammed in her face. How could it not? And it's because of Title IX that many of us were able to participate in sports, pursue the kinds of degrees we wanted, and more. Sure, women did these things before Title IX. But after, well, it was almost like the floodgates opened. Let's look at athletics: according to the National Organization for Women (NOW), before Title IX, one in 27 girls played varsity high school sports. By 2001, one in every 2.5 girls played, meaning a total of 2.8 million girls played varsity sports. That's huge! And that's just sports. Imagine the difference Title IX has made in the academic lives of women and how that has had a ripple effect on generations to come. 

So, how did this affect me? Well, I was one of those 2.8 million girls who played sports throughout school. I played volleyball, soccer, and tennis. I could have played tennis in college, but I quit playing my senior year because I was burnt out. Still, if I'd wanted to pursue tennis in college and I'd found a program who wanted me, I could  have played because of Patsy Mink and Title IX. And beyond that, I was able to pursue my bachelor's degree in a fairly male-dominated field without ever questioning that I could because I am a woman. I didn't know Patsy Mink and she didn't know me, but the things that she fought for and the work that she did certainly helped me in my life. How did Patsy's work influence, shape, or help your life? 

Photo credit: Inspire Her

Photo credit: Inspire Her

 Today is the 44th anniversary of Title IX becoming law. We at GIRLS CAN! CRATE thought that in light of this and the upcoming Summer Olympics where American women will compete in various events, in large part because Patsy's work opened doors to college athletic scholarships and created athletic programs for women, that we would celebrate Patsy Mink with our Tenacious Champion crate. What better time of year to celebrate the life of someone whose influence has been far reaching yet mostly unknown? For more information, head to our website

THANK YOU, PATSY!