Season 1

Feminist Files: Episode 8 – Patsy and Wendy Mink: Think Mink
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Opposition to Title IX heats up as the NCAA realizes what’s at stake. Wendy Mink brings to vivid life her mother Patsy Takemoto Mink’s – the first woman of color in Congress – role in crafting the succinct 37 words that would become Title IX. As the bill gears up to go into effect in 1975, she will face the greatest battle of her career when Title IX’s opponents move to kill it. But as Patsy leads the charge to defend Title IX, she’s forced to choose between the survival of the bill… and of her own daughter.  

PATSY AND WENDY: THINK MINK – TRANSCRIPT

[STANDBY RECAP MUSIC BEGINS.]

 Leigh: Title IX passed, because it was quite literally section IX of a huge education spending bill. And its co-sponsors Representatives Edith Green and Patsy Mink, along with their ally in the Senate, Birch Bayh from Indiana, knew better than to call attention to what they were doing. As Bunny recounts in the oral history transcript:

Jodie: Nobody was watching. I mean, it was the people in higher ed. It was the athletics people. It was also the Department of Labor. They were not watching, and they were very surprised after Title IX passed.

Leigh: But getting a law passed is only the beginning. As we know from Bunny’s story about finding that footnote, a law only works if it’s actually enforced. So they now had three years to finalize the regulations—regulations that would determine in detail what Title IX would cover and what might be exempt. And this is when things start to heat up, because organizations like the NCAA start to pay attention.

Jodie: So when Title IX passes in ’72, I know and about 10 other people know it’s going to cover athletics. But we did not know how far this was going to go.

Leigh: Collegiate athletics is like the sacred cash cow. Once word gets out that men’s sports might be affected—well, let’s just say this is when the opposition gets motivated. This is when the men fight back. But our nerdy revolutionaries are ready, armed with telephones and typewriters and mimeograph machines. They stand at the ready to defend Title IX with everything they’ve got.

[STANDBY RECAP MUSIC ENDS, AND OPENING MUSIC PLAYS.]

Leigh: From Frequency Machine and Leigh Fondakowski comes the story of the 1972 landmark legislation for women’s equality in education: 37 words that would change the world.

[SONG AND AUDIO CLIPS PLAY.]

Leigh: Join me and an ensemble of actors as we discovered the stealth politics of Title IX. This is Feminist Files episode 8, “Patsy and Wendy Think Mink.”

Title IX was passed into law in 1972, but it’s clear that the seed of this legislation was planted much earlier by Representatives Edith Green and Patsy Mink, whose early work on childhood development and education dovetailed with Great Aunt Bunny’s work to enforce the executive order together. They created the groundswell of data on discrimination that led in 1970 to the Edith Green hearings. They had to prove that sex discrimination existed. They had to prove it, and they did prove it.

We’ve been getting to know Bunny Sandler, Edith Green, and Pauli Murray, but there’s another consequential feminist essential in this fight. And that’s Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii. Patsy Mink, who you’ll remember, ran for the 1972 Democratic nomination for president along with Shirley Chisholm of New York. And oh, what a different world we would live in today had America been ready for either of these women. They were, as the saying goes, way ahead of their time. And you’ll soon see why.

Patsy Mink served on the House Committee on Education and Labor, where she became allies with Edith Green, and was heavily involved in childhood development bills that were vetoed by President Nixon in 1971. She was the first woman ever to give the Democratic response to a State of the Union speech, rebutting Richard Nixon in 1970. Hmm. Sounds like she might have been his nemesis. That’s purely conjecture on my part, but what is true by point of fact is that Patsy Mink was fearless and uncompromising in her politics. She was a pioneer who became a standard bearer for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

This is from an interview I found with Patsy Mink from 1974, an interview conducted by Washington correspondent, Wendy Ross.

Interviewer: We have with us Representative Patsy Mink, Democrat of Hawaii. Welcome. In recent years, women in the United States have begun to organize themselves to improve their status in society. This women’s movement or women’s liberation movement as it’s sometimes been called.

Mink: Yes. It’s always been my belief that the major problem in any society was the attitudes that people grew up with or were made to believe were sacred traditions of their civilization. And so long as any part of our society adheres to a sexist notion that men should do certain things and women should do certain things and then begin to inculcate our babies with these notions through curriculum development and so forth, then we’ll never be rid of the basic causes of sex discrimination.

Leigh: Patsy Takemoto Mink has the distinction of being the first woman of color elected to Congress in 1964. I had an opportunity to speak with her daughter, Wendy Mink.

Wendy Mink: My name is Gwendolyn, also known as Wendy Mink, and I am the daughter of the late Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink.

Leigh: Patsy Mink’s advocacy for women’s issues in Congress is vast, spanning over two decades, but she’s most recognized and remembered for her work on Title IX.

Wendy Mink: She was a co-author and advocate in the initial round of legislating Title IX, which came to the House of Representatives in 1971, and then signed into law by Richard Nixon in June of 1972.

Leigh: What we know by point of fact is that Patsy and Edith were co-sponsors of Title IX. So presumably they or someone in their offices wrote the 37 words, and they signed off. Patsy Mink was also one of the 89 witnesses who testified during the Edith Green hearings.

Wendy Mink: Title IX was 37 words which had to have muscle attached through the process of regulatory articulation by what was then called the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Leigh: What we would know as the Department of Education today.

Wendy Mink: My mother was the person who led the charge in the House of Representatives to make sure that Title IX would be interpreted, defined, and implemented in the most comprehensive way possible. And then she led the charge to defend the rules against efforts in Congress to chip away at the full reach of Title IX.

Leigh: This is from the 1974 interview.

Interviewer: We’ve been speaking with Congresswoman Patsy Mink of Hawaii on the subject of women’s rights and then, of course, the higher education bill of several years ago, applied to women. Is that right? Could you discuss that, Mrs. Mink?

Mink: Yes. This is a very important step forward and quite complicated. And I guess there is a growing awareness among educators that they haven’t been entirely fair. And so I suppose the purpose of my bill is really to free the human spirit—to make it possible for everyone to achieve according to their talents and wishes.

Leigh: Patsy Mink got right to work as a serious legislator in Washington. She and Edith Green were among a tiny minority of women in Congress at the time: 2 women in the Senate and 17 in the House. Patsy Mink whose passion to remedy inequality in education was hard earned and had a personal sting.

Wendy Mink: My mother was not so much a storyteller about herself in that sense, so most of the stories come from my grandmother: stories of her evolution into a public professional person and public servant, probably the most striking of which is being rejected from all of the medical schools she applied to fresh out of college. Many of the letters saying that they only take a very small number of women, or they don’t take women at all. So it was very clearly…she was being told that she could not pursue that particular goal or dream because of her gender.

Leigh: Patsy Mink had wanted to become a doctor from the age of four when she had her appendix removed. She went to college, driven with this goal, and had entirely presumed that if she worked hard, she would achieve. She studied chemistry and zoology and was elected president of her college pre-med organization. When she was rejected from medical school, she was blindsided. She was stunned.

Wendy Mink: Her reaction was profound disappointment, obviously. I don’t think that her initial reaction was rage in the way that a later generation, faced with that kind of bigotry, would have reacted. She sort of picked herself up and tried to figure out another way that she could make a difference helping people. And some brilliant mentor suggested she go to law school. And so she changed course.

Leigh: This is from the 1974 interview.

Interviewer: Mrs. Mink, do you think it’s easier for women nowadays trying to enter the professional world, so to speak?

Mink: Oh, I think it’s just a new, a whole new world compared to when I was struggling to get into it. It was really very difficult. I hate to say it but—and I won’t mention the name of the law school—but I got into my law school on the grounds that they considered me a foreigner. I got in as a…on the foreign quota. Someone in the law school had not read up their American history and hadn’t realized that Hawaii was annexed in 1898 and that we were all American citizens.

[INTERVIEWER LAUGHS.]

Mink: But it was very difficult getting into school and getting into the professions. I couldn’t find a job. And when all of my contemporaries at home say: Oh my goodness, what you’ve done to politics at home! And, you know, I wish we had never heard of Patsy Mink. I say: Well, it’s because of all of your attitudes that drove me into politics. If you’d give me a job when I came home from law school, I would’ve been very happy, just draw your paycheck each month.

[INTERVIEWER AND PATSY MINK LAUGH.]

Leigh: As early as 1965, Patsy Mink worked on education including looking at grade school and high school textbooks and how they portrayed women and girls in stereotypical ways.

Mink: Why do all of the women, for instance in a child’s primer, have to be pictured as homemakers with the aprons on in the kitchen? Never anything very exciting beyond being a nurse. The doctor is always a man—the lawyer, the engineer—and this is the kind of very subtle way in which, in my view, girls and women are discouraged from fulfilling their potential.

Leigh: Patsy Mink was quite determined to do something about this both in Congress and at home.

Wendy Mink: When I was in second grade, the second-grade teacher, perhaps wanting to keep peace in the classroom—I don’t know—but there was a boy who wanted to be class president. And so I was told I shouldn’t run for president, because it really was a boy’s job, since a boy wanted the job and that I could be vice president. And I should tailor my aspirations accordingly. When I went home and told my parents that there was…I had to peel my mother off the roof. Yeah.

[LEIGH LAUGHS.]

Wendy Mink: There was a lot of ranting in the four walls about the socialization of girls to specific limited roles…was something that she was extremely exercised about.

Leigh: Patsy Mink comes to Washington, having lived through the med school rejections and after law school not being able to find a firm in which to practice, because no one was hiring female lawyers back then. And then she encounters this.

Wendy Mink: When she was first elected, she was constantly being asked to do the hula by journalists and hosts on television programs that she was invited onto and, all in contexts in which she was presenting herself as a professional person who was a member of Congress. It was part demeaning, part exoticizing. They just didn’t know what to do with a woman of color, I guess.

Leigh: In January 1965, Life magazine published a feature article on Patsy Mink when she was first elected to Congress.

Wendy Mink: Life magazine did a little spread, and they asked her to do the hula, and so she did a pose of the hula. And that shot is included among the other photographs in the Life magazine piece.

Leigh: The headline on the January 22nd issue of Life magazine reads:

Chris: January 22nd, 1965. Hawaii’s Patsy Mink goes to Washington, first Congresswoman from overseas.

Leigh: I was able to find the photo that Wendy mentioned: the newly elected Congresswoman in the pose of the hula in Life magazine, barefoot in a sleeveless flower dress, one hip out, and her arms crossed over her chest. The caption reads:

Chris: Patsy, who was taught to hula as a little girl, performs the dance in the yard of her house in Waipahu, 15 miles west of Honolulu.

Leigh: Other photos in the Life magazine feature spread include a picture of Patsy, her husband John, and Wendy, all wearing t-shirts that say “Think Mink for Congress,” and a picture of Patsy Mink with the caption:

Chris: Equipping herself for the unfamiliar chilly weather of Washington, Patsy tries on a mink stole.

Leigh: Yes. They went there. They staged a shot where Patsy’s wearing a mink stole.

Wendy Mink: I think that on something like “Mike Douglas,” one of those shows from the mid to late sixties.

[AN AUDIO CLIP FROM “THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW” PLAYS.]

Wendy Mink: There was one ridiculous sort of ticky-tacky—somebody’s fantasy of Hawaii kind of question about doing the hula. And Mike might’ve put on a grass skirt and insisted that my mother get up and dance with him or something. I can’t remember. That’s the kind of detail that I stored deep, you know, in the recesses of my memory.

Leigh: It’s absolutely terrible.

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF THE AUDIENCE LAUGHING PLAYS.]

Wendy Mink: It’s terrible. And, first of all, you’re the only woman of color in a national political position, so you have no allies. And there’s nobody else to model your behavior after, or to be in solidarity with you. So you can’t. You’re not acting from sisterhood, right. You’re acting from: Oh my God, what am I supposed to do here? And can I be publicly rude? And what are the costs of that? And do I play along and just let it roll off my shoulder? You know, all of those sorts of…very uncomfortable sorts of inner conflicts that arise. There were a couple of years from the moment of being initially elected through maybe 1966 when she was invited onto programs by a lot of people who kind of wanted to—I don’t know—profit off the fetish of the Asian American doll kind of thing.

Leigh: Here are a few of the real headlines we found from that time.

Chris: Representative Patsy Mink, the lovely Oriental doll.

Leigh: And this.

Chris: Pert and pretty, Patsy Mink also has a lot of serious ideas.

Wendy Mink: And once she sort of got that beat and figured out what was going on, she stopped doing those sorts of interviews altogether. But yeah, there were three or four years there where it was something she had to navigate. Because, of course, the two images are incompatible, right. I mean, the person who is being depicted as a fragile blossom is not the person who can make impassioned speeches about policy issues. The main issue for her was honoring her gender and honoring her ethnicity, while also earning or securing the respect, often in spite of her gender and her ethnicity.

Leigh: Representative Mink went through so much as the first woman of color in Congress. We often celebrate firsts, but it’s not easy to be the first. Her emotional and psychological endurance alone are astonishing.

Wendy Mink: There would be the occasional member of Congress who would wonder whether she wasn’t having secret meetings with communist China, right. I mean, just all kinds of little tropes getting pulled out of the ether. She’s for peace. She looks Chinese. She wasn’t Chinese. She looks Chinese. She must be a communist plant from East Asia. And then over the course of the 1960s as the Vietnam War raged longer and longer, and the racism involved in the attitude towards the Vietnamese people—with the use of the term gook kind of at large in the population—that we all became even more sensitized to the significance of her presence as a voice as an Asian American.

Leigh: And on that note, we’ll take a brief intermission.

~

Leigh: I asked Wendy to describe her mom. To give us a picture.

Wendy Mink: Oh gosh. Nobody has ever asked me to describe my mother. She was petite with a radiant smile. Very physically energetic, her movements, her pace of walking. I remember being on the campaign trail. I remember her amazing capacity to be generous towards opponents or naysayers, a gift that I did not have. But I do remember that—sort of indelibly etched in my consciousness—as something to aspire towards, even if I’ve never accomplished it myself.

Interviewer: Mrs. Mink, you have combined, it seems to me, very successfully marriage and politics. What do you say to people that say that two might be incompatible? How have you done this?

Mink: Well, I think that’s probably the most offensive question that’s ever asked, because I truly believe that men and women are equal. And that just as it’s difficult for a man in politics to have the kind of relaxed family life and leisure situation in politics, it’s the same problem for women. It’s really no different. And I’ve never heard anyone ask a man: How has it been on your family? I mean, I don’t think our problem has been any different than a male politician’s.

Wendy Mink: There’s this phrase in Japanese or a word in Japanese. I don’t know the exact translation but ganbatte, which is you just…you just kind of go fight for it. You know, you go for broke and do that good thing. And winning or losing is not the issue. It’s the struggle, the sort of…loyalty to the thing that you’re committed to. And I remember that sort of emanating from her persona when I was a child.

Leigh: Title IX passes a few months after the ERA in the spring of 1972, and these legislative victories have the women’s groups riding high.

[AN AUDIO CLIP PLAYS.]

Leigh: Bunny Sandler has been working behind the scenes to ensure that the women’s groups have a voice in creating the rules on how Title IX will be regulated and implemented.

Jodie: There were all kinds of things that had to be considered.

Leigh: Congress and the Department of Education, which was known as Health, Education and Welfare back then, had to figure out how to legislate it, what the rules would be. HEW would come up with the rules, but Congress maintained the power to veto them. Edith Green served in Congress for 10 terms, 20 years. And in 1974, she decided not to run for what would have been her 11th term, as she put it: “20 years in any one job is a reasonably long time. They won’t have to drag me out of here in a coffin. I don’t have Potomac fever.” But there’s still Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii who becomes central in these negotiations over how Title IX will be regulated.

Wendy Mink went on to earn an advanced degree, her PhD in Politics and Government from Cornell University. And in the 1970s, her academic career dovetailed with her mother’s work on Title IX.

Wendy Mink: I was intimately involved in my mother’s life, so I sort of understood the importance of the work, especially in terms of my own educational experience. I would say that it didn’t quite hit me how urgently necessary Title IX was until my first day of graduate school, where I discovered that I was one of only two women in a class of 25. That seemed to me preposterous.

Leigh: Wendy started graduate school in 1974, so it’s after Title IX had been passed but before Title IX had been implemented.

Wendy Mink: I had a problem with sexual harassment and was unsuccessful when I tried to grieve the harassment.

Leigh: Title IX was still in limbo. Title IX exists, but Congress has not yet approved its applications.

Wendy Mink: That was a moment in which Title IX had a direct bearing on my life, right. Because my ability to hold the professor accountable really did depend on the existence of Title IX, even though the letter of its application was not clear yet.

Leigh: According to Bunny’s oral history, it was only after it passed and people began to catch on to how broadly its application in education would be, that people hit the panic button, especially men’s sports.

Jodie: If you’re going to do recruiting for men, you got to do recruiting for women. If you’re going to have press interests for men, you have to do it for women. If you have locker rooms for men, you’re supposed to have them for women, and they’re supposed to be relatively equal or whatever. So some are fairly easy. Those are the easy ones. If you pay for uniforms for men, you shouldn’t make the women pay for their own, as they used to, but the real one is the opportunities to participate in athletics. Because if you have football, basketball, swimming, and wrestling, and women have field hockey, basketball, swimming, and golf, and crew, how are you going to know if they’re equal? What would constitute equity? And there is no easy answer.

Leigh: By 1974, the HEW regulations were well on their way to being announced to the public. They would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in admissions, placement, financial aid, housing, and athletics in 16,000 school districts, 2,700 institutions of higher education. The media began to understand the full implications of this new law too—that this would be big. From The New York Times, June 19th, 1974, page one:

Ryan: The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare published today its proposed regulations for ending sex discrimination in education. They would ban such practices as offering home economic courses solely to girls and shop courses solely to boys. The proposed regulations would also require fundamental changes in the athletic programs that are offered to male and female students.

Leigh: As Wendy put it:

Wendy Mink: The shit hit the fan upon passage when men’s revenue-producing sports, i.e. football, discovered the implications for men’s revenue-producing sports, which was that they might have to share a little bit with women.

Ryan: The regulations will apply to education, activities, public and private at all levels from preschool education to graduate and professional schools.

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF A FOOTBALL GAME PLAYS.]

Wendy Mink: So there are a number of efforts that take place in Congress to either amend Title IX itself or to interpret Title IX in such a way as to exclude coeducational phys ed, to exclude athletics. Those were the main two things.

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF A FOOTBALL GAME CONTINUES.]

Jodie: And it’s the Title IX regulation that suddenly says there’s discrimination in athletics. That’s when the opposition surfaces. People began to realize slowly but surely that this was going to change their life.

Leigh: Men’s football led the charge.

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF A FOOTBALL GAME CONTINUES.]

Jodie: You’re talking about football, you know. I care about women’s issues, but I mean, you know, women aren’t going to play football. And our football team is essential for the alumni and for contributions and team sports. We’re talking big money, and it’s emotional. It’s machismo at its best or worst. And these women are going to take it away from us kind of thing. So why don’t we just exempt? There were numerous attempts to exempt football.

Leigh: Notably in May 1974, the Tower Amendment, proposed by Texas Senator John Tower, to exempt revenue-producing sports from complying with Title IX entirely. While that amendment was rejected, Congress did approve an amendment which said that all Title IX regulations must include “reasonable provisions,” which gave schools the wiggle room to spend more on more expensive sports like men’s football than others that were cheaper, like say women’s soccer.

Wendy Mink: So there was this constant beating back of those legislative initiatives. There were forces in Congress who were primed to either reject the regulations or demand that the regulations be amended.

Leigh: For many conservatives, Title IX was one more example of the changing roles of women in American society. And there were women that rallied against it too.

Jodie: Title IX, like many laws, is fairly broad, you know. No person shall be denied the opportunity to participate in whatever. Well, what does that mean in terms of pregnant students in high school? So somebody’s got to write a regulation. When the regulation came out, I wanted to write the women’s analysis of the regulation. I said, people on campus are going to hear about this, and they need to know what women are thinking and saying about these regulations.

Leigh: So you had the women on the one hand who supported Title IX, and then you had the women who were against it, because the regulations also addressed issues of pregnancy and birth control and family planning for students and faculty members. These things were part of what had to be regulated too.

Jodie: And that’s where Phyllis Schlafly comes in. And if you ever get a chance to meet Phyllis Schlafly, you should. You may not agree with her politics, but she was absolutely brilliant.

Leigh: Phyllis Schlafly was a staunch conservative and an incredible grassroots activist who was organizing conservative women across the country in opposition to the ERA.

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY PLAYS.]

Leigh: She had created a newsletter called the Phyllis Schlafly Report. And in it, she told her followers to oppose Title IX. This is Mercedes Herrero.

Mercedes: She looks like Ingrid Bergman. [Laughs.] I mean, she is rather beautiful to look at, and I shouldn’t be talking about her looks given that this is about feminism. [Laughs.] But what can I say? Um, but I love the lilt in her voice.

Leigh: This is from the Phyllis Schlafly Report. Schlafly makes the case against Title IX.

Mercedes: The HEW regulation is based on the gender free approach demanded by the women’s lib militants. It is dogma of the women’s lib radical that there really is no difference between men and women except the sex organs. And they demand that everything touched by federal and state law be absolutely gender free, so that males and females have identical treatment. We reject the gender free approach. We believe that there are many differences between male and female, and that we are entitled to have our laws, regulations, schools, and courts reflect these differences and allow for reasonable differences in treatment that reasonable men and women want.

Leigh: Which brings us to 1975.

Wendy Mink: And so Congress had to vote to accept the regulations or reject them or redirect them in some fashion.

Leigh: 1975. It’s the fall of Saigon, that iconic image of the helicopter evacuation from the embassy roof.

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF THE EVACUATION PLAYS.]

Leigh: The Weather Underground is still making and planting bombs. The FBI triggers a fatal shootout at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. President Ford posthumously pardons Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Muhammad Ali beats Joe Frazier in the “Thrilla in Manila.”

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF MUHAMMAD ALI PLAYS.]

Leigh: It’s the summer of the film Jaws. The first season of Saturday Night Live, and Bruce Springsteen’s album Born to Run. The UN declares 1975, the year of the woman. There’s a Take Back the Night march in Philadelphia to raise awareness of sexual assault and violence against women.

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF THE MARCH PLAYS.]

Leigh: Virginia Slims is still advertising their cigarettes with the slogan: “You’ve come a long way, baby.” But really there is so much farther to go.

Wendy Mink: What comes to a head in 1975, there was a clause that said that Congress had the right to approve the regulations that were handed down.

Leigh: Congress had included a legislative veto for themselves.

Wendy Mink: So when HEW promulgated the regulations, they came to Congress to be approved or not approved.

Leigh: Yet another amendment was introduced in the House. The Casey Amendment, proposed by Texas Representative Robert Casey, to remove the penalty of withholding federal funds, in effect gutting Title IX. They’re clever, these guys. They’re clever, but we see you.

Representative Mink had circulated a Dear Colleague letter ahead of the vote that the Casey Amendment was regressive and saying that it would seriously weaken Title IX. Without these penalties, there would be no real way to enforce Title IX. This was another way to exempt athletics. The Casey Amendment had been defeated before, but it was not dead yet.

Wendy Mink: My mother was one of the managers of the floor debate as Edith Green was no longer in Congress. And so she was the principal, original sponsor carrying the issue forward.

Leigh: And here we have the words of Patsy Mink herself, her recollections of these events in a speech she gave on the floor of Congress on the 30th anniversary of Title IX, as read by actor Amy Hill.

Amy: When coaches and male athletes began to realize that they would have to share their facilities and budgets with women, they became outraged. In 1975, opponents of Title IX paraded a number of college and professional athletes through the Committee Room to testify that Title IX hurt men’s athletics. At the time women athletes were so few and unknown that the only well-known athlete we could bring in to testify was Billie Jean King.

[AN AUDIO CLIP OF BILLIE JEAN KING PLAYS.]

Amy: The fact that there were virtually no prominent women athletes in our country was a testament in itself to the necessity of Title IX.

Leigh: This was the crucial vote. Once Congress approved the regulations, Title IX could be implemented across the country. At the time of this crucial vote, Wendy was a graduate student at Cornell in Ithaca.

Wendy Mink: And just as the vote was about to happen, she got a call from her office saying that I was in intensive care. I’d been in an automobile accident.

Leigh: The news came as the heated floor debate was winding down, and the vote was imminent.

Wendy Mink: I got into an automobile accident on the day, on the afternoon of the big vote on the HEW regs, and really on the…what the future of Title IX was going to be.

Leigh: We have Patsy’s own words on this from the Congressional Record.

Amy: I left the floor immediately and rushed off to Ithaca to be with her. After I left, the Casey motion carried on a vote of 212 to 211.

Wendy Mink: She left the floor of the House without voting. She just hightailed it to the next plane to upstate New York. And the vote on the regs lost by one vote. Her vote.

Amy: The House had voted to exclude college athletics from Title IX regulations.

Leigh: I imagine Patsy Mink—the shock of receiving this news—racing to get to a plane, to upstate New York, to get to her daughter, to her daughter’s bedside. This was life or death. Everything changed in that moment. And the only thing that mattered was getting on that plane.

Wendy Mink: So there was bad press the next day. I think headlines that said Patsy Mink didn’t even have the courage to stick around for the final outcome or something like that. When in fact, there was a personal family emergency, and she put me first. Sorry, girls and women. She did put me first in this case.

Amy: The newspapers reported that I had left the floor crying in the face of defeat. Without checking with my office, the paper indulged in the very stereotypical smear that we were fighting against.

Leigh: But there was still hope, because the Senate then voted down the Casey Amendment the following day.

Amy: The following day the Senate voted 65 to 29 to insist on the Senate position and strike the amendment from the bill.

Wendy Mink: 10 days later, there was an opportunity through some parliamentary maneuver to reconsider the vote, because the vote my mother did not cast would have produced a tie.

Leigh: And as Patsy Mink recalled, this gave them a second chance to vote.

Amy: On the next legislative day, July 18th, 1975. Speaker Carl Albert took the House floor and explained the circumstances of my departure. Representative Flood then offered a motion to recede and concur in the Senate position.

Wendy Mink: They had a revote. And I don’t know, a dozen or so people changed their votes. And many of them said that I was such a nice girl. They were going to change their vote because of me.

Leigh: Doing a friend, a colleague, a favor in a moment of distress meant more to them than scoring political points.

Amy: It carried by a vote of 260 to 178. Title IX’s application to athletics was preserved.

Wendy Mink: And the fairly robust regulations survived, and we pushed on, and that was the turning point. If Congress had gone with the naysayers, then probably going forward there would be no athletic protection for girls and women under Title IX.

Leigh: The Title IX regulations were issued, and schools were given three years to comply. And after all that, after all of that is when the women started to really figure out how bad the discrimination was.

Jodie: We were absolutely appalled. If you were a woman and you wanted to sign up to play tennis or handball, you had to get a man to sign up for you. You couldn’t sign up for yourself. Men had trainers; women athletes had no access to trainers. Sometimes women had no insurance. Women had practice late at night and early in the morning, and men had the middle of the day. You know, you couldn’t believe how bad it was. Women paid for their own uniforms, paying for their own transportation. The coaches for women were volunteers. They didn’t even get paid. And it’s the Title IX regulation that suddenly says there’s discrimination in athletics.

Leigh: The defeat of the Casey Amendment and the approval of the Title IX regulations was a huge achievement, but even the women don’t yet know how far Title IX is going to go. As Patsy Mink said:

Mink: We’re just at the very beginning stages, I think, of this whole movement to reawaken the sense of equality in this country.

Leigh: We’ve been getting to know Bunny Sandler and Patsy Mink and Edith Green and Pauli Murray, the unlikely nerdy revolutionaries who created the academic sex revolution. As Title IX continues to face challenges, there is still more to their stories. This is the once and future story of Title IX.

© 2018, Frequency Machine Studios.
© 2018, Frequency Machine Studios.