March Madness (03/11/2018)-Eliza “Lyda” Burton Conley v. Patsy Mink

Today’s head-to-head is between Eliza Conley and Patsy Mink. Eliza Conley,  the first Native American woman lawyer admitted to the United States Supreme Court and Patsy Mink who was the first Asian American Woman elected to Congress.  Which woman inspires you the most? You can vote by participating in our daily Twitter or Facebook poll, or by casting a vote at the Circulation Desk.  Happy voting!

Eliza “Lyda” Burton-“One hundred thousand dollars would be no inducement whatever in buying my consent to the desecration of the graves of my parents.”

Image via Wikipedia

Lyda Conley was the first Native American woman lawyer in the United States when she was admitted to the Missouri State Bar in 1902. She was a member of the Wyandot tribe and best known for her active defense of the Huron Place Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas. The Cemetery was guaranteed by an 1855 treaty because it was the burial grounds for many Wyandot members but Congress approved the sale and removal of the bodies in the Cemetery for commercial use in 1906. Lyda filed suit to stop the sale and she and her sisters guarded the cemetery with weapons constantly. She took her case to the U.S Supreme Court, and was the first person to argue that the government owed protection to the burial grounds of Native Americans. Although the Court ruled against her, the land was never actually sold as there were no buyers willing to take it due to Lyda’s work to turn the public against the sale. Now the land is an historic landmark and Lyda herself is buried there.

Patsy Mink-“We have to build things that we want to see accomplished, in life and in our country, based on our own personal experiences…to make sure that others…do not have to suffer the same discrimination.”

Image via Britannica

Born to Japanese immigrants in Hawaii, Patsy was one of the first women in her high school to become legitimately interested in student government. Just before her junior year election as student body president, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese and Patsy worked to overcome feelings towards her because of the attacks by creating a strategy to win over individual groups within her school. Patsy went to college to eventually become a doctor, but none the schools she applied to accepted women. She decided that the only way to force medical schools to accept women was to change the legislation and headed to law school. Despite doing well with her degree, she struggled to find work as a married, female, Asian-American attorney. She continued to struggle despite her successes as an attorney and only gained traction after several years of practice in Hawaii. She was part of the territorial legislature that debated and voted to make Hawaii an official state of the United States in 1959. She continued to be a part of the Hawaii State Senate until 1965, when Patsy was elected as the first Asian American Woman to the United States Congress. Additionally, she served as an Assistant Secretary of States for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. After she finished her position as an Assistant Secretary, she returned to Honolulu where she eventually regained her seat in Congress where she remained until her death in 2002. During her time as a Congress Woman, she co-authored the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act and it was renamed the “Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act” after her passing. She also received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2014, which is the highest award a civilian can receive.

Disclaimer: This is a friendly competition that is meant to increase awareness about some amazing women. The match ups were determined by a random outcome generator, and the winner will be determined based solely on the votes submitted by the participants. We are in no way seeking to pit one woman against each other in any inappropriate way, because each woman is inspiring in her own right.

Author: Alyson Drake

Alyson Drake is the Assistant Director for Public Services and the Director of the Excellence in Legal Research Program at Texas Tech University Law School, where she also teaches courses in Texas Legal Research, and Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research and administers the Legal Practice Program's research workshops. She blogs at

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