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From the Executive Director: Celebrating Women, Celebrating Mitsuye Endo Tsutsumi

By April 17, 2024No Comments

David Inoue

March was officially Women’s History Month. Among the celebrations that took place was the release of the Patsy Takemoto Mink commemorative quarter at the end of the month. The quarter design highlights her role in championing Title IX legislation, which promises equal opportunity in education for women and girls.

Mink was the first Asian American woman — and the first woman of color — elected to Congress. Her career was one of breaking barriers and struggling against gender roles that told her she should not go to law school and not work in a prestigious law firm despite graduating from a top law school. She, instead, forged her own career entering private practice and building her political career on her own.

Where Title IX is perceived by most of us to have had the greatest impact is in women’s sports, and there could not have been a more fitting tribute than the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament this past week, culminating in the University of South Carolina, the other USC, going undefeated on the season defeating Iowa, which featured Caitlin Clark, an on-court celebrity outshining almost any player on the men’s side this season for popularity. Clark rewrote the record books for Division I basketball, regardless of whether men’s or women’s statistics. The successes of the USC team and Caitlin Clark provide a fitting tribute to Mink’s legacy.

This past weekend, I traveled back to my home state of Ohio to attend the memorial service honoring another important woman, Virginia Wu-Jen Chen. While most of you may not have heard of her, MaMa Chen, as she was known to many, was the mother of Christine Chen, former OCA executive director and current executive director of APIA Vote. It is because of MaMa Chen that we are privileged to have someone like Christine, who learned her values of engaging in community and promoting civic participation from her mother. What Mama Chen did at the local level as Christine was growing up became the model for how Christine now leads us nationally to get out the Asian American vote and coalesce us all together in community.

Yet, even as we celebrate these women’s accomplishments and impact, I want to highlight one woman who remains unrecognized in the way that her male counterparts long have been. JACL is renewing and redoubling its efforts to secure the Presidential Medal of Freedom honor for Mitsuye Endo Tsutsumi.

Endo, like Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Min Yasui, protested the incarceration of Japanese Americans through legal cases brought against the government. Korematsu, Hirabayashi and Yasui are well-known cases for the fact that the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against them, in what are considered some of the greatest miscarriages of justice in history. Endo’s case, however, was the one case that ended in victory. It is not without coincidence that hers was the case that JACL supported and pushed from the beginning. 

To support her case for receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, we are calling on all JACL chapters to sign on to an organizational letter. A committee led by the coram nobis lawyers for Korematsu, Hirabayashi and Yasui have organized a petition for individuals to sign on to, which can be accessed at

I urge every individual in the JACL membership to sign on to this petition and make sure your chapter has signed on to our group letter.

Women’s History Month should not be limited to one month, and with our combined efforts, we can ensure that sometime later this year, Mitsuye Endo Tsutsumi receives the recognition she deserves.

David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.