Wendy Mink was 7 years old when she decided to run for president.
But her dream was denied before she began.
“I was asked to remove my name from the ballot,” Mink said. “A teacher told me that it was more appropriate for a boy to be president.”
She could be a helper and run for vice president, the teacher offered.
Ten years later, Mink received a rejection letter from Stanford. They had “reached their quota” of women for that year.
Today, the independent scholar who taught for 30 years in higher education sees how Title IX — the education act that prohibited gender discrimination in federally funded institutions — has influenced her life.
“I directly witnessed the struggle to win and implement Title IX and have been directly involved in its enforcement at the university level,” she said.
A woman who went to graduate school and worked in academia, she has a professional connection to the legislation that was signed 40 years ago.
But there also is a more personal one.
The co-author of the law was her mother.
Mink was 20 years old when the legislation passed in 1972.
Her mother, U.S. Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink, had had her own share of experiences that made her an advocate for equity in educational opportunities.
The elder Mink was rejected by more than a dozen medical schools in the 1940s because she was a woman.
“It was the most devastating disappointment of my life,” she recalled in the documentary Patsy Mink: Ahead of Her Time. “That I could have spent my whole educational experience, you know, geared toward one thing and then have all the schools I wrote say ‘no, can’t have you.’”
She applied to the University of Chicago law school, and, she says, was accepted as part of the “foreign quota,” despite being born in Hawaii. One of only two women in her class, she later became the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii, and then the first woman of color elected to Congress.
There she served 24 years and co-authored Title IX, the women’s educational equity act, the legislation that became her legacy.
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