She applied to a dozen medical schools, but she was denied admission because she was a woman. She earned a law degree instead, but firms refused to hire her because she had a daughter and employers said she couldn’t work long hours. So she became a politician and wrote legislation that changed the politics of gender, knocking down barriers to educational opportunity for millions of women.

“I didn’t start off wanting to be in politics,” Patsy Takemoto Mink once told a reporter. “Not being able to get a job from anybody changed things.”

And Mink changed a lot of things. The first woman of color elected to Congress, she co-authored Title IX, which mandated equal treatment for women and men in education. After 45 years, the law has led to dramatic progress: Now 11.5 million women attend college, compared with 8.9 million men. Before Title IX, just 300,000 girls nationwide participated in high school sports every year, versus the 3.5 million who do today. The fields of medicine and law that first excluded Mink are now almost equal in their enrollment of male and female students.

“She changed the course of history — and how many people can we say that about?” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro after Mink’s death in 2002.

Read the full article about the groundbreaking education legacy of Patsy Mink by Kate Stringer at The 74.