Today is the first day of March, which marks the first day of women’s history month. For more on that go to womenshistorymonth.gov. We will be celebrating with great female figures throughout the month. To kick it off & transition from Black History Month, first up is Shirley Chisholm.
A child of West Indian immigrants, Shirley was sent back to Barbados as a young child to live with her grandmother where she received her early education. She returned to Brooklyn where she was born & attended high school & then Brooklyn college, where she received a degree in elementary education. She went on to further that degree at the teacher’s college of Columbia university.
She began as a director of a childcare center. Then as an educational consultant. Her political career began in 1964 we she was elected to the New York State Legislature. In 1968, she ran for Congress & won, becoming the first black woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. She is one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
She was originally assigned to agriculture, but being from Brooklyn she didn’t feel that was a relevant issue so, to the surprise of most, she asked for reassignment. She was then given veteran affairs. However, following her support of the majority leader she became assigned to the education & labor committee, where she remained until she retired.
Shirley hired all women for her office, half of them black. In 1972, she began her campaign for the democratic candidate for president. She was the first African American to run for a major party & the first woman to run for the democratic party. There were 3 failed assassinations on her. She won 4 states, but lost Florida, though her opponent gave her the black delegates. She received 152 ballot votes. Her reason for running was said to shake the status quo. She garnered the support of the National Organization for Women, along with Gloria Steinem & Betty Friedan.
Her political legacy is her passion for the inner city. She got a bill passed to raise the minimum wage of domestic workers, was against the draft, & pushed for spending increases in education, health care & other social services. She was in office for 14 years.
Following her career in politics, Shirley went back to teaching. She also authored 2 books, Unbought & Unbossed & The Good Fight. She died in 2005. She would’ve been 90 this year.
In her own words, “When I die, I want to be remembered as a woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be a catalyst of change. I don’t want to be remembered as the first black woman who went to Congress. And I don’t even want to be remembered as the first woman who happened to be black to make the bid for the presidency. I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the 20th century. That’s what I want.”