January 4, 2005 by

Shirley Chisholm

46 comments

Categories: Education, Extraordinary People, Politicians, Writers/Editors

schisholm.jpgShirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, died on Jan. 1. Cause of death was not released. She was 80.

Born to poor, immigrant parents, Chisholm spent the first half of her childhood living on her grandmother’s farm in Barbados. There she attended a British elementary school and picked up a Caribbean accent. At 11, Chisholm moved back to her parents’ home in Brooklyn and became a star student. She graduated cum laude from Brooklyn College and earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Columbia University.

Chisholm taught at a nursery school, ran a day care center and served as an educational consultant with New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare, then she entered the political arena. In 1964, she campaigned on a Democratic platform and won a seat in the New York General Assembly. Four years later, Chisholm was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first black woman to attain such a position of power.

During her seven terms in Washington, Chisholm championed the rights of minorities, women, the poor and veterans. She added diversity and a spirited voice to the white-male dominated halls of Congress. In her first term, she was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee. Knowing such a position would be useless to her urban constituency, Chisholm defied tradition and requested a reassignment. She was eventually given seats on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Education and Labor Committee.

Chisholm was frequently criticized for denouncing the Vietnam War and demanding equal rights for all Americans. In 1972, she angered the establishment by seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Chisholm was the first African-American to conduct a large-scale campaign for the presidency within the two-party system.

Running under the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed,” Chisholm sought to draw people into politics who traditionally did not participate in the process. But even her most loyal supporters balked when she visited her rival, former Alabama governor and reformed segregationist George Wallace, in the hospital after an assassin shot him on the campaign trail. Despite their ideological differences, she felt it was the humane thing to do. Wallace appreciated the gesture, and two years later he helped Chisholm get the Congressional support she needed to extend the minimum wage to domestic workers. Although George S. McGovern eventually accepted the party’s nomination, Chisholm received the National Organization for Women’s first presidential endorsement and won a federal court order to participate in the televised debates.

In recent years, Chisholm taught at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., and gave rousing speeches on the lecture circuit. The author of two books (“Unbought and Unbossed,” “The Good Fight”), she was also the subject of a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Upon her retirement from Congress in 1982, Chisholm was asked how she’d like to be remembered. She said: “I’d like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts.”

Listen to a Tribute From NPR

46 Responses to Shirley Chisholm

  1. Lilithharp17

    I was very young, when I first heard of this woman. Even now, that she is gone, only now do I know of her importance to a/All women.
    Women need to wake up and address their daily living situations. To look at every woman around them and to ask themselves, are you ready to lead?
    Leadership requires dual visions. The visions of both female and male gendor. To lead it means hard work and sticking to your school books like she did in her lifetime and Focus!
    Where I lacked focus in my youth, only now do I see leadership in what Ms Chisholm tried to do for herself and others who needed help in gaining in their own lives, freedom and economic security.
    Where some Americans can only see their fingertips at the end of their noses, this woman chose to lead and to prove herself to others and her community. She chose a tough road and maintained herself admirably in a world of segretation and of a/All men.
    She is an icon of women to come. My only hope is we learn from women who achieve and are not afraid of blighting themselves with public opionion forever dogging them throughout their careers.
    You see, to forget where you came from long enough to lead fairly and to forget the bounty of becoming a “good ol boy” in government, is mighty good to see and read about.
    Let a/All know that this women made me forget the fun and look at her as a young woman and ask myself, “Who is she and how does she dare to want the Presidency?” Not bad for one woman coming from poor circumstances, I would say, no matter where she came from, who she was and the color of her skin here is relavent but not pertinent to her bravery when any man can knock a woman over with one phone call if he did not already feel good about his power and gender.
    She had to have great interpersonal skills and abilities unnamed in her funeral notice.

  2. Fleurette Maloney

    This is her second cousin from Barbados my Grandmother Myrtle was her Aunt, her mom my Great Grandmother.
    She will be sadly missed, met here once while she was on holiday in Barbados. I have a copy of her book The Good Fight. Will read it all over again

  3. Glenavary A. Rasheed

    I shall ALWAYS remember her as a very intelligent, firm, and diligent woman! She stood for freedom, justice and equality for ALL people! She certainly made a difference in this world, and will be missed!

  4. Michelle J

    Shirley Chisholm was a women that believe in what was right.She was a smart and caring person. She will be sadly missed but she had lived a great life that that nobody will ever forget.

  5. Alyssa

    I’m awhite person and I’m really glad that black and white people can be at least in the same room without fighting. She did alot to hepl our world and she made a big difference.

  6. Rebecca

    I think it’s really great that Shirley Chislom was part of the government. She’s a big part of history and the U.S. would still be the same today if she didn’t help us. I am very gratefull and I’m going to do a report on her and I’ll be sure to put how grreat of a person she was.

  7. Robin A. Johsnon, Miami, FL

    May God continue to bless a woman whom came to be an icon to me when I was 16 years old. It is because of Ms. Chisholm that I wanted to be a lawyer, her words she spoke were moving and powerful so that it was then I said I will graduate and be someone. She shall truly be missed on earth but well respected in heaven as she is welcome. Rest on and THANKS FOR EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!

  8. jennifer

    Shirley Chisholm was an inspiration to all of us when,she made the speech “Equal Rights For Women,”when she said,”It is for ths reason that I wish to introduce today a proposal that has been before every congress for the last 40 years and that sooner or later must become part of the basic law of the land – the equal rights amendment.” I know that alot of women were inspired by that.So know today alot of women can run for any goverment issue or presidental campaign they know they can succed just becauseof, Shirley Chisholm. I know if she was alive today i would tell her thank you for everything she did.

  9. Sharon

    I would just like to thank her for being such a big part in the american goverment she really inspired all women that they can achieve whatever they would like to do whether they want to be in the house of representitives or run for president.R.I.P you will be very missed!

  10. A student from PS#40 jersey city NJ

    Befor the I realized Womens history month was coming up I had no idea who she was, in my school we have to do a real women essay. Normally I pick my mom or one of my grangmothers but my social studies teacher mentioned who Shirley Chisholm, was and he gave me little deatail. So I thought hay she sounds interestingand decided to do some research on her. After doing extensive reseach I realized that not only was she a great woman or a highley intelligent women but she was a truly real women. Shirley should always be remembered. From Courtney Mills grade 8

  11. Dwane H Boggs

    i wish teach my kids all about black history and when i found out about Ms. Chisloum achaivement i wanted my kids to learn about her and other black’s that have gave life for us to make away for all to go through life with their head hold up to be proud.

  12. Eriona

    I just want to say that she was probaly a great woman and she will be truly missed. She changed the way us – African Americans live today truly. She is an insprination to all of us . I just wish i could have met her. She is now resting in a place were she can talk to God ALWAYS.

  13. zaramckay

    i’m doing a reprot on shirley chisholm and her life was vary cool i hpe that i wil be a intelagent as she once was i’m 17 in school and lovein it bye

  14. xenia colon

    I am doing a report on her and i think that she is a very interesting, good rolemodel, and very inspirering person. May she rest in peace.

  15. Jamar Shields

    I really didnt know who she was but reading and learning about her she was a great women and she really put her all into what she was doing!!!!!!!!!! Right now im doing a project on her to learn more about a great black woman!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. tt

    shirley was a well known and well respected ladie .everyone loved her because she stood up for freedom. she lifted all of our spirits up and never let us down and thats why i loved ms.chisgolm so much
    R.I.P SHIRLEY
    most luv

  17. Katherine

    I’m doing a report on Shirley Chisholm. I am a young girl who was deeply inspired by her accomplishments and motivation. She ruled in a man controlled world. May she always rest in peace.

  18. Lala

    I am a Mexican American women, and without a leader like Ms. Chisholm, I would not be where I am today. She is an inspiration and role model and she will never be forgotten.

  19. shatorra flowers

    Shriley was a very outspoking congress woman! She was a role model for many other! SHE IS GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN! R.I.P! WE luv U!

  20. kikiliki

    i’m doing a big history project on shirley chiholm at first i didn’t even know who was shirley chiholm but i as get to know her and what she have done for black people i will always remember SHIRLEY CHISHOLM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Molly B.

    I am doing a project on Ms. Chisholm and I have learned that she is awesome!!! R.I.P. Ms. Shirley R.I.P.!!!!!! We all love you and respect you greatly! We will never forget you!

  22. Lisa Lesperance

    I think that she was an inspiration and she was a great role model. I to am writing a report on her and I think she was the best person to write about. RIP. We will seriously miss a powerful inspirationl black such as your self. We love you.

  23. Jennifer

    She is a great woman she did so many chanes so she can get a good education. She really touched me and she inspires me in so many ways to do better things in life.

  24. michelle manuel

    I remember when Shirley ran for President in 1972 I was 12 yrs. old, and I thought to myself “WOW” we as black people really do have a chance in this life time. thanks Shirley for making the way for Barac Obama, Dem. Presidential Canidate for the year 2008. R.I.P. you will never be forgotten.

  25. raina

    i love you RIP i need your help because people dying and fighting and my little sister fall out the widow and i went to the hopsil to see her

  26. De Borah Lee

    RIP….A true trail blazer in so many ways and in so many things. Thank you for being bold and strong in a time that we had no voice.

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