Small in stature but a giant in vision, she began her life on a Maui sugar plantation and rose to become the first Asian American woman and woman of color in the United States Congress, where she served from 1965-1977 and again from 1990 until her death in 2002. A firecracker and a fighter, she continually pushed the limits of what was acceptable, speaking out early and persistently against the Vietnam War and entering the 1972 presidential primary, making her one of the first women to seek the nation's highest office. She transformed America's schools and universities as the co-author and driving force behind Title IX, later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. The landmark legislation opened up higher education and athletics to women."Mink's story captures the spirit of a generation of trailblazing women and shows that one person — armed with vision, drive, and perseverance — can make a difference," said filmmaker Kimberlee Bassford, who was born after Title IX. "I never doubted that I would have the opportunity to go to college — even graduate school — and to play sports. Women of my generation take for granted the very things that Patsy Mink fought for."
The film goes beyond Mink's myriad accomplishments to reveal a woman whose political journey was often lonely and tumultuous. Dispelling stereotypes of the compliant Japanese female, Mink confronted sexism within her own Hawaii Democratic Party, whose leaders disliked her independent style and openly maneuvered against her. "Part of my attraction to her is that I am also an Asian American woman," said Bassford. "She shattered the stereotype of the 'typical' Asian-American woman. She's a powerful inspiration for marginalized people, especially women of color, that their voices do count."Mink's liberal politics, particularly her vocal opposition to the Vietnam War, engendered intense criticism. While she came to power during the Johnson administration at the height of liberalism, she later saw the tradition fade into the conservatism of the 1980s and 1990s. The film's title is taken from Mink's quote: "It is easy enough to vote right and be consistently with the majority. But it is more often more important to be ahead of the majority and this means being willing to cut the first furrow in the ground and stand alone for a while if necessary."
As Franklin Odo, one of the film's interviewees and the Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, states, "Patsy Mink offers a phenomenal political story, because she was so outside what you would expect of a woman, of a Japanese American and of a member of Congress. She was truly a force of nature."
Simultaneously a woman of the people and a pioneer, a patriot and an outcast, her story proves endlessly intriguing, and one that embodies the history, ideals and spirit of America.