Shirley Chisholm’s Start on The Road to Becoming a Respected Congresswoman
A distinguished congresswoman, scholar, and African American spokeswoman, Shirley Anita Chisholm was the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Chisholm was a dynamic public speaker who boldly challenged traditional politics, ˜Fighting Shirley Chisholm™, as she called herself during her first congressional campaign, championed liberal legislation from her seat in the House beginning with her inauguration in 1968 and continuing until her retirement in 1982. She ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination.
Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill on November 30, 1924, in the impoverished Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Her father, an emigrant from Guyana, worked as an unskilled laborer, and her mother, a native of Barbados, was a seamstress and a domestic worker. Extraordinary circumstances separated Chisholm from her parents for much of her early childhood. Struggling to save money for a house and for their children’s education, the St. Hills sent their four daughters to live on the farm of a grandmother in Barbados. From the age of three to the age of eleven, Chisholm received a British elementary school education and acquired a West Indian rhythm of speech. An important influence on her early life, her grandmother instilled in her the values of pride, courage, and faith. Her parents took her back to Brooklyn at the age of eleven. Graduating with an excellent academic record from a Brooklyn girls’ high school, Chisholm earned a scholarship to study sociology at Brooklyn College. She quickly became active in political circles, joining the Harriet Tubman Society, serving as an Urban League volunteer, and winning prizes in debate. Her interest in her community led her to attend city meetings, where, as a student, she astonished older adults by confronting civic leaders with questions about the quality of government services to her predominantly black neighborhood.
While beginning to establish her profile in her community, she also impressed her professors with a powerful speaking style and was encouraged to enter politics. She received her sociology degree with honors in 1946. While working in a nursery school she studied for a master’s degree in elementary education at Columbia University where she met Conrad Chisholm, whom she married in 1949. Two years later she received her master’s degree in early childhood education.Over the next decade Chisholm built a reputation as an authority on early education and child welfare. She served as the director of the Friends Day Nursery, in Brownsville, New York, and, from 1953 to 1959, of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center, in Lower Manhattan. Taking her expertise into the public sector, she became an educational consultant in New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare from 1959 to 1964. In addition to her professional work, she participated in a variety of community and civic activities. She served on the board of directors of the Brooklyn Home for Aged Colored People and became a prominent member of the Brooklyn branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She frequently volunteered her time for such groups as the Democratic Women’s Workshop; the League of Women Voters; and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League, an organization formed to support black candidates. Her intense participation in local politics”marked by her forthrightness and her willingness to confront politicians with difficult questions about racial equality”made her unpopular with the predominantly white Democratic establishment in New York. But it won her the recognition and respect of her community which was about 70 percent African American and Hispanic residents.II. POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONIn 1968 Chisholm became the first African American woman to run for the U.S. Congress.
In her pursuit of the Democratic nomination for the Twelfth District she bested two other African American candidates and was appointed New York’s National Committee representative at the party’s national convention. She later said that to win the nomination she had to beat the political machine, an entrenched bureaucracy that had never been fond of her brash style. With the nomination in hand, she faced her Republican opponent, James Farber, a liberal white male who enjoyed national prominence as a civil rights leader. Farber was expected to win, but on November 5, 1968, by a margin of more than 2-1, Chisholm staged an upset victory. The success of her campaign, which ran under the slogan ˜Unbought and Unbossed™, was attributed both to widespread support from women and to her ability to address Puerto Rican voters in Spanish. From the moment she took her seat in the House of Representatives, Chisholm demonstrated a strong yet dominating personality that would mark her career in Washington, D.C. With her, it would not be politics as usual. Her initial appointment to a minor subcommittee of the Agriculture Committee struck her as a waste of her talents and experience, and, despite warnings that she was endangering her career, she protested. The House Ways and Means Committee relented and she was appointed to Veterans’ Affairs. In her first speech on the floor of the House she vowed to vote against all defense spending. She told lawmakers, “Our children, our jobless men, our deprived, rejected and starving fellows, our dejected citizens must come first.”
Chisholm’s goals as a congresswoman were twofold. First, when she took office, only 9 of the 435 House members were black, so she made herself an advocate for African Americans both in and out of her district. Second, she tried to advance the goal of racial equality. She supported programs that provided housing and education aid to cities, voted to uphold laws that would end discrimination in federally funded jobs, and promoted new antidiscrimination legislation. Abortion rights also became a focal point in her politics. As a state assemblywoman she had supported bills that would make it easier for women whose lives were endangered to have abortions, although she had opposed outright legalization of abortion. But in 1968, with a change of heart, she agreed to be honorary president of the newly formed National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. This would have been a dangerous position for an established politician, let alone a newly elected House member.
Chisholm’s dramatic decision to run for president in 1972 came in part through her widely publicized opposition to the Vietman War and the policies of President Richard M. Nixon. While speaking at college campuses she was frequently asked if she would consider running. At first doubtful that an African American woman would stand a chance, she became encouraged by the growing numbers of blacks serving in elected office. Initially she received little support, even within black political circles, but following an enthusiastic tour of Florida, she announced her candidacy on January 25, 1972. During campaign stops she asked voters to replace entrenched white male leadership with a new voice: “I am your instrument of change. ¦ give your votes to me instead of one of those warmed-over gentlemen who come to you once every four years.” Criticized for running a hopeless campaign, she remained steadfast. “Some people call me a freak for running for the presidency,” she said, “but I am very glad to be a freak in order to break down this domain.” Following her reelection to the House in the fall of 1972, Chisholm served every two-year term until 1982. The seniority she earned over seven terms”she was the only woman on the House Rules Committee”made her effective in building coalitions among liberal politicians. In addition to supporting women’s equality, she was instrumental in advancing welfare legislation designed to help poor and needy citizens. However, the onset of the Reagan era drastically changed the political landscape in Washington, D.C., as liberals were swept aside by conservative challengers. Announcing her retirement on February 10, 1982, Chisholm cited as her chief reason the defeat of liberal senators and representatives, which made it impossible for the old alliances to work.
Chisholm accepted an invitation to join the faculty at Mount Holyoke, the United States’ oldest women’s college, where she taught courses in political science and women’s studies until 1987. At one commencement address she urged new graduates to be active citizens: “Ask questions and demand answers. Do not just tend your garden, collect your paycheck, bolt the door, and deplore what you see on television. Too many people are doing that already. Instead, you must live in the mainstream of your time and of your generation.” Although she had left Washington, D.C., she remained immersed in politics. In 1985, she became the first president of the newly formed National Political Congress of Black Women, which in three years grew from five hundred to eighty-five hundred members. In 1988, she campaigned for the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who was seeking the Democratic Party™s presidential nomination.III. LEGAL IMPACT Many people argue the reason or need for an Equal Rights Amendment. They feel that the same rights are protected under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. However prior to and even after this amendment the inalienable rights of United States citizens were and are still being violated. The most important key to this amendment states œ[No state can take away the rights that are protected by the Federal Government].
On May 21, 1969, Chisholm delivered her historic speech about the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States House of Representatives. The speech, full of anecdotes, basically illustrated what people have to go through in their daily lives without protection from the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. Chisholm urged the House to make this into law. Below is a copy of the amendmentEqual Rights AmendmentSection 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification. To date, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment is still seeking addition to the US Constitution.IV. MODEL OF POLICY
This law aided by Chisholm follows the Institutional Model of Policy. The institutional model deals with the government and its implications of policies and law. It is one of the government™s duties to protect the rights and enforce peace within our Nation. The proposal of this law would do that very thing. REFERENCE PAGEBlack History by New York Institute of Research and History April 1983Black Women in White America by Gerda Lerner November 1992 Fifty Black Women Who Changed America by Amy Alexander January 2003Unbought and Unbossed by Shirley Chisholm June 1970
Shirley Chisholm’s Evolution, from the Early Years to a Seat in Us Congress
A Brief Biography of Shirley Chisholm(1924-2005)
Shirley St. Hill was born in New York City on November 30, 1924 she was the oldest of four daughters. Her parents were Charles and Ruby St.Hill. In 1927 at age 3 Shirley was sent to live on her grandmothers farm in Barbados. She attended British grammar school and picked up the Caribbean accent that marked her speech. Shirley moved back to New York in 1934 at the age of 11 and went on to graduate in 1946 from Brooklyn College with honors later earning a masters degree from Columbia University. During this time it was difficult for black college graduates to find jobs. After being rejected by many companies, she obtained a job at the Mt.Calvary childcare center in Harlem.In 1949 she married Conrad Chisholm, Shirley and her husband participated in local politics. In 1946 she ran for an assembly seat. She won and served in the New York general assembly from 1964 to1968.
In 1968 after finishing her term in the legislature, Shirley Chisholm campaigned to represent New Yorks Twelfth Congressional District. Her campaign slogan was œFighting Shirley Chisholm”Un bought and Un bossed. She won then election and became the first African American woman elected to congress. During her first term in congress, Chisholm hired an all-female staff and spoke out for civil rights, womens rights, the poor and against the Vietnam War. In 1970 she was elected to a second term.On January 25, 1972, Chisholm announced her candidacy for president. She stood before the cameras and in the beginning off her speech she said, œI stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the womens of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or special interest. I am the candidate of the people.
Though Shirley did not win a single primary during the 1972 presidential election, she captured over 150 votes on the first ballot and later said her campaign had been a necessary œcatalyst for change. Shirley went on to serve for ten more years in the House and retired in 1982 after seven terms in congress.Shirley kept active in politics following her retirement by co-founding the National Political Congress of Black Women and serving as its founding in 1984 until1992. Shirley also lectured, taught at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and wrote two books, including her autobiography œUn bought and Un bossed, which was the campaign slogan she used in her first race for congress. Shirley moved to Florida in 1991 and died at the age of 80 on January 1, 2005 at her home in Ormond Beach. Asked how she hoped to be remembered, Shirley once commented, œId like them to say Shirley Chisholm had guts. Thats how Id like to be remembered.