Trailblazer: Patsy Matsu Takemoto

Her legacy & why we need to fight to save Title IX

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Her Legacy

A woman of many firsts, Patsy Matsu Takemoto lead the way for radical change by writing and successfully passing Title IX of the Higher Education Act Amendments. Today her legacy is being threatened by a woman who could not be less deserving of Takemoto's inspirational work. On Friday, September 22, Betsy Devos, the current Secretary of Education, rolled back the Obama Era legislation that specifically outlined Title IX guidelines for schools. Known as the Dear College Letter, this policy covered areas such as sexual assault, dating abuse, equal access to education, and anti discrimination protections for LGBTQIA students and students of color. By no means perfect, these guidelines were nonetheless essential lifelines for students who are the most vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and by extension withdrawal from school.

Devos' new Title IX policies have real consequences. As of now, "mediation" is an acceptable way to handle cases of Sexual Assault and schools can drag out cases indefinitely. Worst of all, if a rapist is found not responsible for an act of sexual violence, survivors cannot appeal the decision. However, if a rapist is found responsible, the rapist can still appeal the decision. 

Read about this woman's incredible life and tireless work for change. Let us honor her legacy and fight for the rights of all students to go to school free from sexual violence. Make no mistake, Devos is just getting started.

To learn more about Title IX, click here and here.

- Margot

A trailblazer for the ages

Born Patsy Matsu Takemoto in Paia, Maui, Hawaii, the daughter of Suematsu Takemoto, a civil engineer, and Mitama Tateyama Takemoto, each were children of Japanese immigrants. From an early age she showed an aptitude for politics, becoming the president of the student body at Maui High School.

Despite knowing the obstacles that faced her, Takemoto was intent on a career in medicine.  She reportedly applied to twenty medical schools both in Hawaii and on the U.S. mainland, but was rejected by all of them. Finding work as a temporary clerical worker at Honolulu Academy of the Arts, her female boss encouraged her to apply to law school. She gained entrance to the University of Chicago Law School - as a foreign student.

Pregnant with her first child and unable to find work at a law firm, her father loaned her money to begin her own practice, making her the first Japanese American female attorney in Hawaii.

Setting her sights on politics, she founded the Oahu Young Democrats as well as the Hawaii Young Democrats before becoming the first Asian American women elected to the Hawiian House of Representatives. In 1964, she ran a successful campaign for U.S. Congress, where she stayed for the next twelve years. She worked tirelessly to advance civil rights, women's rights, economic justice, civil liberties, peace, and the integrity of the democratic process. She famously forced the resignation of Dr. Edgar F. Berman, a well-known physician, from a subcommittee of the national Democratic Party after he claimed that "raging hormones" made women unsuitable for executive positions in government and business.

Among her greatest legislative accomplishments was the passage of Title IX of the Higher Education Act Amendments in 1972, known commonly as the Equal Opportunity in Education Act. Patsy was the principal author of the act, which prohibited gender discrimination in all federally funded educational institutions; one of its most significant consequences was the considerable growth of women's athletic programs in American schools and colleges.

In 2002, Patsy died from pneumonia in a Honolulu hospital. She was so beloved by her constituents that even after her unexpected death, she was posthumously reelected. Eventually, a special election was held for her seat.