Opinion Op-Docs

When the Backlash Came for
Title IX, She Fought Back

When the Backlash
Came for Title IX, She
Fought Back

Throughout her life, Representative Patsy Mink challenged
the status quo. As a leading advocate of Title IX,
she defended the bill against those who sought to weaken it.

Throughout her life, Representative
Patsy Mink challenged the status quo.
As a leading advocate of Title IX,
she defended the bill against those who
sought to weaken it.

When the Backlash Came for Title IX, She Fought Back

Mr. Proudfoot is a documentary filmmaker.

Fifty years ago, on June 23, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX, the 37-word snippet within the Educational Amendments of 1972 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex “under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

I became curious about the origins of Title IX while doing background research for my Op-Doc “The Queen of Basketball,” about Lucy Harris, one of the earliest beneficiaries of Title IX. My research led me to Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii, who was a pivotal figure in writing and defending the law.

As the first woman of color elected to Congress, Ms. Mink — and her path to office — was influenced by the discrimination she experienced in her personal and professional lives. Many doors were closed to her as a Japanese American woman, and she became an activist and later a politician to change the status quo.

As I learned more about the early history of Title IX in the 1970s, I found that lobbyists and legislators mounted a formidable campaign to dilute and erode the law. This effort would culminate in a dramatic moment on the House floor, where Ms. Mink was pulled away during a crucial vote on the future of the law.

In the short documentary above, Wendy Mink narrates her mother’s groundbreaking rise to power and the startling collision between the personal and political that momentarily derailed the cause of gender equity in America. After Ms. Mink’s death in 2002, Title IX was officially renamed the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Ben Proudfoot is a filmmaker and the founder and C.E.O. of Breakwater Studios. He directed the Oscar-winning Op-Doc “The Queen of Basketball.”

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