The daughter of the late Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii, Gwendolyn Mink was immersed in politics while growing up in Washington, D.C., in the late 1960s.
In this interview, Gwendolyn Mink reflects on the life and career of her mother, the late Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii, the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gwendolyn Mink’s recollections provide a window into her family life and her mother’s political philosophy and legislative achievements.
Mink recalls the unique story of her mother’s journey to Capitol Hill, including her formative political experiences in Hawaii, her career in territorial and state politics, and her election to Congress as a Democrat in 1964. Mink discusses her teenage years, when she enjoyed extraordinary access to Capitol Hill, from visits to her mother’s office to watching votes in the House chamber. She also describes her father’s support for her mother’s political career and her mother’s views on the Congresswoman’s Caucus. Mink’s oral history highlights her mother’s significant role in the history of women in Congress, from her consistent defense of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, her commitment to women’s rights and the rights of labor, her opposition to the Vietnam War, and her resistance to welfare reform when she returned to Congress in the 1990s.
Mink completed a doctorate in government at Cornell University and pursued an academic career. A professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz from 1980 to 2001, she also taught women’s studies at Smith College from 2001 to 2008. Her academic work focused on American politics, women’s history, and poverty policy. During the 1990s, she chaired the steering committee of the Women’s Committee of 100, a collection of academics, activists, and policy experts committed to advising Members of Congress on welfare reform. She is currently an independent scholar writing about law, politics, and gender and American society.