Entries

West's Encyclopedia of American Law Contemporary Black BiographyContemporary Black BiographyUXL Encyclopedia of World Biography Further reading

NON JS

Chisholm, Shirley Anita St. Hill

CHISHOLM, SHIRLEY ANITA ST. HILL

A distinguished congresswoman, scholar, and African American spokeswoman, Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. 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. Admirers and foes alike dubbed her the "Pepperpot" because of her fondness for saying, "I breathe fire." Known for her wit, dedication, and compassion, she remains a fierce and eloquent voice on national matters.

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 11, 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 11.

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 (naacp). 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.

So well known was Chisholm in Brooklyn by 1964 that she could mount a successful campaign for a seat in the New York State Assembly despite having no support from the Democratic establishment. She stressed that "the people"had asked her to run. As an assemblywoman from 1964 to 1968, she spearheaded legislation providing for state-funded day care centers and for unemployment insurance for domestic workers. Of particular importance to her were bills that she shepherded through the Education Committee. One major accomplishment was a financial aid program known as Search for Elevation, Education and Knowledge (SEEK). Passed into law in 1965, SEEK reached out to students of color who lacked the necessary academic requirements to enter state universities by providing them with scholarships and remedial training. Other legislative successes boosted school spending limits and wiped out the practice of stripping tenure from women teachers who took maternity leave.

"The word 'radical,' properly used, means going to the basis of a problem—the word comes from the latin for 'root'—rather than dealing with its manifestations."
—Shirley Chisholm

In 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 antiestablishment 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 the bold iconoclasm 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." In May of 1969 she gave a speech to the House of Representatives in which she introduced the equal rights amendment and pointed out that the bill had been introduced before every Congress for the previous 40 years. To those who argued that women were already protected under the law, she pointed out that existing laws were inadequate and that the majority of women were concentrated in lower-paying menial jobs. "If women are already equal", she asked."Why is it such an event whenever one gets elected to Congress?"

Chisholm's goals as a congresswoman were twofold. First, when she took office, only nine 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.

Independence of thought was Chisholm's hallmark, however, and the following year she crossed party lines to support Republican mayor John V. Lindsay in the New York mayoral election. Her decision so outraged her own party that some members called, unsuccessfully, for her ouster from the Democratic National Committee. But Chisholm saw the need for revamping traditional politics, supporting foes if necessary, and creating new bases of power. In 1971, along with such feminist leaders as author gloria steinem, she helped found the National Women's Political Caucus.

Chisholm's dramatic decision to run for president in 1972 came in part through her widely publicized opposition to the vietnam 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."

Despite her popularity with women and young people, Chisholm's campaign suffered from limited finances, internal disarray, and lukewarm support from black political leaders. By July 1972, she had 28 delegates, almost half of what she had hoped to bring to the Democratic National Convention. Nevertheless, she won the support of the convention's black caucus, and, in a symbolic move, hubert h. humphrey released his black delegates to vote for her. As a result, on the first ballot, she received 152 delegates and addressed the convention. But the number was far too small to stop candidate George S. McGovern from winning the party's nomination.

After the election the trouble that had beset her campaign continued. A 1973 report by the government's general accounting office recommended that the u.s. justice department investigate possible misconduct in handling campaign funds but a 1974 investigation found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

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. She was also a visiting professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. 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 8,500 members. In 1988, she campaigned for the Reverend jesse jackson, who was seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Using her retirement to give speeches and commencement addresses on vital issues, Chisholm has continued to inspire the public imagination. She has advocated sex education for students beginning at the age of seven in order to combat the "national plague" of teenage pregnancy. In 1991, calling the small numbers of African American college professors a crisis in black education, she warned, "Blacks run the risk of becoming an intellectual boat people, just drifting." Opposing the Persian Gulf War in 1991, she argued that the expense of U.S. militarism blocked the goals of peace and equality. "The foundation is being laid for yet another generation of minority Americans to be denied the American dream," she cautioned.

In 1993, Chisholm was nominated to the position of ambassador to Jamaica but was prevented from assuming the role because of poor health. In 1999, she was a commencement speaker at San Diego State University College of Health and Human Services, where she received her 38th honorary degree. Chisholm received the american association of retired persons (AARP) Andrus Award in May 2000. The award is given biennially to nationally recognized older Americans who have made significant contributions to society. In an interview with AARP's news magazine Modern Maturity, the former congresswoman listed her grandmother, eleanor roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman as her three greatest influences and stated that race and poverty were the two major issues that still need to be addressed in modern America.

further readings

Brownmiller, Susan. 1970. Shirley Chisholm. New York: Doubleday.

Chisholm, Shirley. 2000. "The Straight-Talking Optimist." Interview by Mary Willis. Modern Maturity (May/June). Available online at <www.aarp.org/mmaturity/may_jun00/perspectives.html> (accessed June 19, 2003).

Scheader, Catherine. 1990. Shirley Chisholm: Teacher and Congresswoman. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Chisholm, Shirley Anita St. Hill." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Chisholm, Shirley Anita St. Hill." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3437700825.html

"Chisholm, Shirley Anita St. Hill." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3437700825.html

Chisholm, Shirley

Shirley Chisholm

1924-2005

Politician, writer, educator

In becoming the first black, as well as the first woman, to ever seek a major political party's nomination for the U.S. presidency, former New York congresswoman Shirley Chisholm demonstrated that aspirations for the nation's executive office need not be the exclusive domain of white males. Chisholm's unsuccessful 1972 campaign for the Democratic presidential nominationlargely viewed as more symbolic than practicalwas intended to both break ground and prove a point. "I ran because someone had to do it first," she stated in The Good Fight, her candid recounting of the campaign. "In this country everybody is supposed to be able to run for President, but that's never been really true. I ran because most people think the country is not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate." By staying in the race all the way to the Democratic National Convention, Chisholm hoped to set an example for other nontraditional presidential candidates. "The next time a woman runs, or a black, a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is 'not ready' to elect to its highest office, I believe he or she will be taken seriously from the start. The door is not open yet, but it is ajar."

Chisholm's reputation as a trailblazer for minorities in politics, however, is more lastingly illustrated by her tenure in Congress. The first black woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Chisholm served from 1969 to 1982 as congresswoman from New York's 12th District, which comprised a largely black constituency in her home city of Brooklyn. Chisholm soon became famous for her candid and strongly held viewpoints as well as her refusal to be undaunted by the status quo of the congressional power structure. "Since I went to the House of Representatives in 1969, I have grown to detest many of the white Northern liberals who are always ready with rhetoric about equal opportunity in jobs and education, when the time comes to put the heat on, in committee and on the floor, and do something, like passing an amendment or increasing an appropriation, too many of these white knights turn up missing," she wrote in The Good Fight. Criticizing what she called a media-driven image or "mold" that often predetermines candidates for public office, Chisholm suggested, "Could it be that the persistence of poverty, hunger, racism, war, semiliteracy and unemployment is partly due to the fact that we have excluded so many persons from the processes that make and carry out social policies?"

Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in 1924 in Brooklyn. Her early schooling took place on the Caribbean island of Barbados, where she and her two sisters were sent to live with their grandmother because of family financial difficulties. "Years later I would know what an important gift my parents had given me by seeing to it that I had my early education in the strict, traditional, British-style schools of Barbados," Chisholm stated in her 1970 autobiography Unbought and Unbossed. "If I speak and write easily now, that early education is the main reason." In 1934, the daughters were rejoined with their parents, who were still struggling financially in the midst of the Great Depression but nevertheless provided a rich family life. Chisholm's father was an avid reader who introduced the youngster to the teachings of early black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, while her mother emphasized the importance of her daughters' receiving quality educations. An excellent student in high school, Chisholm received scholarship offers to Vassar and Oberlin colleges, but enrolled in the more financially accessible Brooklyn College.

At Brooklyn College, Chisholm decided to pursue a career in teaching. Her political awareness as a blackwhich had been fostered by her fatherwas heightened when she became a member of the Harriet Tubman Society. "There," as she wrote in Unbought and Unbossed, "I first heard people other than my father talk about white oppression, black racial consciousness, and black pride." Although she was assured by both professors and fellow students that she possessed ideal qualities for a political career, Chisholm continued her studies in education. She graduated with honors in the early 1940s, and subsequently worked for seven years as a teacher at a child care center in New York City. At the same time, she pursued her master's degree in early childhood education at Columbia University, where she also met her future husband, Conrad Chisholm.

During the 1950s, Chisholm became involved for the first time with political campaigning when she worked to elect a black underdog lawyer, Lewis S. Flagg, Jr., to a district court judgeship in New York. In 1960, she helped form the Unity Democratic Club, an organization that sought to promote and elect candidates for New York State's 17th Assembly District. Deciding to run herself for the 17th District representative seat, she won a landslide victory in the fall of 1964 after a long and grueling campaign. Chisholm served on the New York legislature for the next four years and gained a reputation as a competent and effective lawmaker. She helped introduce bills to assist disadvantaged students in obtaining quality education and to secure unemployment insurance for domestic employees.

Chisholm's political aspirations broadened in the late 1960s with the creation of New York's 12th Congressional District. She decided to pursue the new congressional seat in spite of sparse campaign funds and entered a heated primary race against a much-favored Democratic party candidate, William Thompson. Her hard work, combined with a low voter turnout, resulted in a slim primary victory and helped carry her in the fall election against Republican opponent James Farmer. Chisholm proved to be a determined and outspoken representative who was especially vocal in her support of programs and policies that benefited disadvantaged groups. During her tenure, she served on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, the Education and Labor Committee, and the influential House Rules Committee.

Three years into her congressional career, Chisholm further distinguished herself by becoming the first black woman to seek a major political party nomination for the presidency. Although many political observers considered her chances for victory remote, Chisholm nonetheless pressed ahead, and at the final Democratic convention tally, she received a total of 151 votes. In The Good Fight she assessed the possible long-range effects of her campaign: "The United States was said not to be ready to elect a Catholic to the Presidency when Al Smith ran in the 1920s. But Smith's nomination may have helped pave the way for the successful campaign John F. Kennedy waged in 1960. Who can tell? What I hope most is that now there will be others who will feel themselves as capable of running for high political office as any wealthy, good-looking white male."

At a Glance

Born Shirley Anita St. Hill on November 30, 1924, in Brooklyn, NY; died on January 3, 2005, in Ormond Beach, FL; daughter of Charles and Ruby St. Hill; married Conrad Chisholm (divorced, 1977); married Arthur Hardwick, Jr., 1977 (died, 1986); children: none. Education : Brooklyn College, BA, cum laude; Columbia University, MA. Politics : Democrat.

Career : Mount Calvary Child Care Center, New York City, teacher for seven years during the 1940s; member of New York State Assembly, 1964-68; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Democratic congresswoman from 12th New York District, 1969-82; ran for Democratic party nomination for U.S. presidency, 1972; Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, Purington Professor, 1983-2004(?); writer; lecturer. Visiting scholar, Spelman College, 1985. Cofounder, National Political Congress of Black Women; member of advisory council, National Organization for Women; honorary committee member, United Negro College Fund.

Memberships : League of Women Voters, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Board of Americans for Democratic Action, Delta Sigma Theta.

Awards : Woman of the Year award, Clairol, 1973, for outstanding achievement in public affairs; recipient of numerous honorary degrees.

Chisholm retired from public office in 1982, wanting to spend more time with her ailing second husband Arthur Hardwick, who had been critically injured in an automobile accident. At the time of her retirement from Congress, Chisholm expressed her frustration with both the male-dominated power structure on Capitol Hill as well as the social policies of President Ronald Reagan's administration. In her typically direct manner, she stated in a 1982 Glamour article that one of the major problems in the United States was a "scarcity of people in power who are sensitive to the needs, hopes, and aspirations of the various segments of our multi-faceted society. We have become too plastic; we have become too theoretical. We need individuals who are compassionate, concerned, committed." Commenting on the necessity of more women pursuing political careers, Chisholm added, "Men don't seem to have time for complexity. They really do not give enough attention to the areas of conservation and preservation of human resources."

Her retirement from Congress did not cast Chisholm into oblivion. She remained extremely active, serving as Purington Professor at Massachusetts' Mt. Holyoke College. There she taught politics and women's studies throughout the 1980s. She also remained involved in U.S. politics, co-founding in 1984, the National Political Congress of Black Women, which in 1988 sent a delegation of over 100 women to the Democratic National Convention. Chisholm also participated in the presidential campaigns of black candidate Jesse Jackson. "Jackson is the voice of the poor, the disenchanted, the disillusioned," she was quoted as saying in Newsweek, "and that is exactly what I was."

Chisholm moved to Florida in 1991 and eased into less strenuous retirement. After suffering many strokes, Chisholm died at age 80 on January 1, 2005, in her Florida home. She will be remembered well. Her career, especially her struggle for political power, was brought vividly to life in the documentary, Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed. Producer Shola Lynch compiled newsreels and fresh interviews to highlight Chisholm's run for the presidency, even including interviews with Chisholm in her old age. In the documentary, Chisholm explained that despite her many historic "firsts" she would like to be remembered differently: "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," Chisholm noted in the film, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the 20th century." National Public television aired the documentary in February to commemorate Chisholm's life. Hopefully, the world will remember her as she saw herself; according to Newsweek her preferred epitaph would be "Shirley Chisholm had guts."

Selected writings

Unbought and Unbossed, Houghton, 1970.

The Good Fight, Houghton, 1973.

Sources

Books

Scheader, Catherine, Shirley Chisholm: Teacher and Congresswoman, Enslow, 1990.

Periodicals

Essence, August 1982.

Glamour, November 1982.

Houston Chronicle, January 9, 2005.

Jet, January 24, 2005.

Newsweek, November 14, 1983; May 21, 1984; January 17, 2005.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 3, 2005.

Time, June 21, 1982.

Variety, February 9, 2004.

On-line

"About Shirley Chisholm," PBS, www.pbs.org/pov/pov2005/chisholm/about_chisholm.html (March 9, 2005).

" Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed," Black Sky Media, www.chisholm72.net (March 9, 2005).

"Shirley Chisholm," AfricanAmericans.com, www.africanamericans.com/shirleyChisholm.htm (March 9, 2005).

"Shirley Chisholm's 1972 Presidential Campaign," Jo Freeman, www.jofreeman.com/polhistory/chisholm.htm (March 9, 2005).

Other

Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed (film), REAL-side Productions, 2004.

Michael E. Mueller and

Sara Pendergast

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

Mueller, Michael; Pendergast, Sara. "Chisholm, Shirley." Contemporary Black Biography. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Mueller, Michael; Pendergast, Sara. "Chisholm, Shirley." Contemporary Black Biography. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3431600019.html

Mueller, Michael; Pendergast, Sara. "Chisholm, Shirley." Contemporary Black Biography. 2005. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3431600019.html

Chisholm, Shirley 1924–

Shirley Chisholm 1924

Politician, educator, author

At a Glance

Embarked on a Political Career

Joined 1972 Presidential Race

Selected writings

Sources

In becoming the first black, as well as the first woman, to ever seek a major political partys nomination for the U.S. presidency, former New York congresswoman Shirley Chisholm demonstrated that aspirations for the nations executive office need not be the exclusive domain of white males. Chisholms unsuccessful 1972 campaign for the Democratic presidential nominationlargely viewed as more symbolic than practicalwas intended to both break ground and prove a point. I ran because someone had to do it first, she stated in The Good Fight, her candid recounting of the campaign. In this country everybody is supposed to be able to run for President, but thats never been really true. I ran because most people think the country is not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate. By staying in the race all the way to the Democratic National Convention, Chisholm hoped to set an example for other nontraditional presidential candidates. The next time a woman runs, or a black, a Jew or anyone from a group that the country is not ready to elect to its highest office, I believe he or she will be taken seriously from the start. The door is not open yet, but it is ajar.

Chisholms reputation as a trailblazer for minorities in politics, however, is more lastingly illustrated by her tenure in Congress. The first black woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Chisholm served from 1969 to 1982 as congresswoman from New Yorks 12th District, which comprised a largely black constituency in her home city of Brooklyn. Chisholm soon became famous for her candid and strongly held viewpoints as well as her refusal to be undaunted by the status quo of the congressional power structure. Since I went to the House of Representatives in 1969, I have grown to detest many of the white Northern liberals who are always ready with rhetoric about equal opportunity in jobs and education, [however] when the time comes to put the heat on, in committee and on the floor, and do something, like passing an amendment or increasing an appropriation, too many of these white knights turn up missing, she wrote in The Good Fight. Criticizing what she called a media-driven image or mold that often predetermines candidates for public office, Chisholm suggested, Could it be that the persistence of poverty, hunger, racism, war, semiliteracy and unemployment is partly due to the fact that we have

At a Glance

Born Shirley Anita St. Hill, November 30, 1924, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Charles and Ruby St. Hill; married Conrad Chisholm (divorced, 1977); married Arthur Hardwick, Jr., 1977 (died, 1986). Education : Received B.A. (cum laude) from Brooklyn College and M.A. degree from Columbia University. Politics : Democrat.

Mount Calvary Child Care Center, New York City, teacher for seven years during the 1940s; member of New York State Assembly, 1964-68; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, Democratic congresswoman from 12th New York District, 1969-82; ran for Democratic party nomination for U.S. presidency, 1972; Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, Purington Professor, 1983-87; writer; lecturer. Visiting Scholar, Spelman College, 1985. Cofounder, National Political Congress of Black Women; member of advisory council, National Organization for Women; honorary committee member, United Negro College Fund.

Member: League of Women Voters, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Board of Americans for Democratic Action, Delta Sigma Theta.

Awards: Woman of the Year award, Clairol, 1973, for outstanding achievement in public affairs; recipient of numerous honorary degrees.

Addresses: 77 Bainbridge Ln., Palm Coast, FL 32137.

excluded so many persons from the processes that make and carry out social policies?

Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in 1924 in Brooklyn. Her early schooling took place on the Caribbean island of Barbados, where she and her two sisters were sent to live with their grandmother because of family financial difficulties. Years later I would know what an important gift my parents had given me by seeing to it that I had my early education in the strict, traditional, British-style schools of Barbados, Chisholm stated in her 1970 autobiography Unbought and Unbossed. If I speak and write easily now, that early education is the main reason. In 1934, the daughters Were rejoined with their parents, who were still struggling financially in the midst of the Great Depression but nevertheless provided a rich family life. Chisholms father was an avid reader who introduced the youngster to the teachings of early black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, while her mother emphasized the importance of her daughters receiving quality educations. An excellent student in high school, Chisholm received scholarship offers to Vassar and Oberlin colleges, but enrolled in the more financially accessible Brooklyn College.

At Brooklyn College, Chisholm decided to pursue a career in teaching. Her political awareness as a blackwhich had been fostered by her fatherwas heightened when she became a member of the Harriet Tubman Society. There, as she wrote in Unbought and Unbossed, I first heard people other than my father talk about white oppression, black racial consciousness, and black pride. Although she was assured by both professors and fellow students that she possessed ideal qualities for a political career, Chisholm continued her studies in education. She graduated with honors in the early 1940s, and subsequently worked for seven years as a teacher at a child care center in New York City. At the same time, she pursued her masters degree in early childhood education at Columbia University, where she also met her future husband, Conrad Chisholm.

Embarked on a Political Career

During the 1950s, Chisholm became involved for the first time with political campaigning when she worked to elect a black underdog lawyer, Lewis S. Flagg, Jr., to a district court judgeship in New York. In 1960, she helped form the Unity Democratic Club, an organization that sought to promote and elect candidates for New York States 17th Assembly District. Deciding to run herself for the 17th District representative seat, she won a landslide victory in the fall of 1964 after a long and grueling campaign. Chisholm served on the New York legislature for the next four years and gained a reputation as a competent and effective lawmaker. She helped introduce bills to assist disadvantaged students in obtaining quality education and to secure unemployment insurance for domestic employees.

Chisholms political aspirations broadened in the late 1960s with the creation of New Yorks 12th Congressional District. She decided to pursue the new congressional seat in spite of sparse campaign funds and entered a heated primary race against a much-favored Democratic party candidate, William Thompson. Her hard work, combined with a low voter turnout, resulted in a slim primary victory and helped carry her in the fall election against Republican opponent James Farmer. Chisholm proved to be a determined and outspoken representative who was especially vocal in her support of programs and policies that benefitted disadvantaged groups. During her tenure, she served on the Veterans Affairs Committee, the Education and Labor Committee, and the influential House Rules Committee.

Joined 1972 Presidential Race

Three years into her congressional career, Chisholm further distinguished herself by becoming the first black woman to seek a major political party nomination for the presidency. Although many political observers considered her chances for victory remote, Chisholm nonetheless pressed ahead, and at the final Democratic convention tally, she received a total of 151 votes. In The Good Fight she assessed the possible long-range effects of her campaign: The United States was said not to be ready to elect a Catholic to the Presidency when Al Smith ran in the 1920s. But Smiths nomination may have helped pave the way for the successful campaign John F. Kennedy waged in 1960. Who can tell? What I hope most is that now there will be others who will feel themselves as capable of running for high political office as any wealthy, good-looking white male.

Chisholm retired from public office in 1982, wanting to spend more time with her ailing second husband Arthur Hardwick, who had been critically injured in an automobile accident. At the time of her retirement from Congress, Chisholm expressed her frustration with both the male-dominated power structure on Capitol Hill as well as the social policies of President Ronald Reagans administration. In her typically direct manner, she stated in a 1982 Glamour article that one of the major problems in the United States was a scarcity of people in power who are sensitive to the needs, hopes, and aspirations of the various segments of our multi-faceted society. We have become too plastic; we have become too theoretical. We need individuals who are compassionate, concerned, committed. Commenting on the necessity of more women pursuing political careers, Chisholm added, Men dont seem to have time for complexity. They really do not give enough attention to the areas of conservation and preservation of human resources.

From 1983 to 1987, Chisholm served as Purington Professor at Massachusetts Mt. Holyoke College, where she taught politics and womens studies. She remained actively involved in U.S. politics for several years before retiring to Florida in the early 1990s. In 1984, she cofounded the National Political Congress of Black Women, which in 1988 sent a delegation of over 100 women to the Democratic National Convention. Chisholm has also participated in the presidential campaigns of black candidate Jesse Jackson. Jackson is the voice of the poor, the disenchanted, the disillusioned, she was quoted as saying in Newsweek, and that is exactly what I was.

Selected writings

Unbought and Unbossed, Houghton, 1970.

The Good Fight, Houghton, 1973.

Contributor to periodicals.

Sources

Books

Chisholm, Shirley, Unbought and Unbossed, Houghton, 1970.

Chisholm, Shirley, The Good Fight, Houghton, 1973.

Scheader, Catherine, Shirley Chisholm: Teacher and Congresswoman, Enslow, 1990.

Periodicals

Essence, August 1982.

Glamour, November 1982.

Newsweek, November 14, 1983; May 21, 1984.

Time, June 21, 1982.

Michael E. Mueller

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

Mueller, Michael. "Chisholm, Shirley 1924–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Mueller, Michael. "Chisholm, Shirley 1924–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870400019.html

Mueller, Michael. "Chisholm, Shirley 1924–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1992. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2870400019.html

Chisholm, Shirley

Shirley Chisholm

Born: November 30, 1924
Brooklyn, New York

African American congresswoman and politician

In 1968 Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman to serve in the United States Congress. Chisholm is a model of independence and honesty and has championed several issues including civil rights, aid for the poor, and women's rights.

Early education and hardship

Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Barbadian parents. When she was three years old, Shirley was sent to live with her grandmother on a farm in Barbados, a former British colony in the West Indies. She received much of her primary education in the Barbadian school system, which stressed the traditional British teachings of reading, writing, and history. Chisholm credits much of her educational successes to this well-rounded early education.

Return to New York

When Chisholm was ten years old, she returned to New York during the height of the Great Depression (192939). The Great Depression was a time of severe economic hardship when many people in the United States were unemployed. Life was not easy for the Chisholms in New York, and Shirley's parents sacrificed much for their eight children.

Chisholm attended New York public schools and was able to compete well in the mainly white classrooms. She attended Girls' High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a section of Brooklyn. Chisholm won tuition scholarships to several distinguished colleges but was unable to afford the room and board. At the urging of her parents she decided to live at home and attend Brooklyn College.

While training to be a teacher, Chisholm became active in several campus and community groups. She developed an interest in politics and learned the arts of organizing and fund-raising. Soon, she developed a deep resentment toward the role of women in local politics, which, at the time, consisted mostly of staying in the background and playing a secondary role to their male equals. Through campus politics and her work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization that was formed in 1909 to work for equal rights for African Americans, Chisholm found a way to voice her opinions about economic and social structures in a rapidly changing nation.

From the classroom to politics

After graduating with honors from Brooklyn College in 1946, Chisholm began work as a nursery school teacher and later as a director of schools for early childhood education. She became politically active with the Democratic Party and quickly developed a reputation as a person who challenged the traditional roles of women, African Americans, and the poor. In 1949, she married Conrad Chisholm, and the couple settled in Brooklyn.

During her successful career as a teacher, Chisholm became involved in several organizations including the League of Women Voters and the Seventeenth Assembly District Democratic Club.

An outspoken politician

After a successful career as a teacher, Chisholm decided to run for the New York State Assembly. Her ideals were perfect for the times. In the mid-1960s the civil rights movement was in full swing. Across the nation, activists were working for equal civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race. In 1964 Chisholm was elected to the assembly.

During the time that she served in the assembly Chisholm sponsored fifty bills, but only eight of them passed. One of the successful bills she supported provided assistance for poor students to go on to higher education. Another provided employment insurance coverage for personal and domestic employees. Still another bill reversed a law that caused female teachers in New York to lose their tenure (permanence of position) while they were out on maternity leave.

A new congresswoman

Chisholm served in the state assembly until 1968, when she decided to run for the U.S. Congress. Her opponent was the civil rights leader James Farmer (1920). Chisholm won the election and began a long career in the U.S. House of Representatives, lasting from the Ninety-first through the Ninety-seventh Congress (19691982).

As a member of Congress, Chisholm attempted to focus her attention on the needs of her constituents (the voters she represented). She served on several House committees including Agriculture, Veterans' Affairs, Rules and Education, and Labor. During the Ninety-first Congress, when she was assigned to the Forestry Committee, she protested her appointment and said that she wanted to work on committees that dealt with issues that were affecting her district. Forestry issues had little or no importance to the people she represented in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Taking a stand

With the Vietnam War (195575) raging overseas, Chisholm protested the amount of money being spent for the defense budget while social programs suffered. The Vietnam War was a conflict in which South Vietnam, supported by the United States, was fighting against a takeover by the Communist government of North Vietnam. Chisholm argued that money should not be spent for war while many Americans were hungry, poorly educated, and without adequate housing.

Chisholm was also a strong supporter of women's rights. Early in her career as a congresswoman, she took a stand on the issue of abortion (a woman's right to prevent the birth of a child) and supported a woman's right to choose. She also spoke against traditional roles for women professionals (including secretaries, teachers, and librarians), arguing that women were capable of entering many other professions. Black women especially, she felt, had been pushed into stereotypical roles, or conventional professions, such as maids and nannies. Chisholm supported the idea that they needed to escape, not just by governmental aid, but also by self-effort. Her antiwar and women's liberation views made Chisholm a popular speaker on college campuses.

Presidential contender

In 1972 Chisholm ran for the highest office in the landPresident of the United States of America. In addition to her interest in civil rights, she spoke out about the judicial system in the United States, police brutality, prison reform, gun control, drug abuse, and numerous other topics. Chisholm did not win the Democratic nomination, but she did win an impressive 10 percent of the votes within the party. As a result of her candidacy, Chisholm was voted one of the ten most admired women in the world.

After her unsuccessful presidential campaign, Chisholm continued to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for another decade. As a member of the Black Caucus (a group of lawmakers who represent African Americans) she was able to watch black representation in the Congress grow and to welcome other black female congresswomen. In 1982, she announced her retirement from Congress.

Life after politics

From 1983 to 1987 Chisholm served as Purington Professor at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where she taught politics and women's studies. In 1985 she was the visiting scholar at Spelman College, and in 1987 she retired from teaching altogether. Chisholm continued to be involved in politics by cofounding the National Political Congress of Black Women in 1984. She also worked for the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson (1941) in 1984 and 1988. In 1993 President Bill Clinton nominated Chisholm for the position of Ambassador to Jamaica. Because of declining health, she turned down the nomination.

Although Chisholm broke ground as the nation's first black congresswoman and the first black presidential candidate, she has said she would rather be remembered for continuing throughout her life to fight for rights for women and African Americans.

For More Information

Chisholm, Shirley. The Good Fight. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.

Chisholm, Shirley. Unbought and Unbossed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

Itzkowitz, Leonore K. Shirley Chisholm for President. 1974.

Jackson, Garnet. Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman. Cleveland: Modern Curriculum Press, 1994.

Pollack, Jill S. Shirley Chisholm. New York: F. Watts, 1994.

Scheader, Catherine. Shirley Chisholm: Teacher and Congresswoman. Hillsdale, NJ: Enslow, 1990.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Chisholm, Shirley." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Chisholm, Shirley." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3437500204.html

"Chisholm, Shirley." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2003. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3437500204.html

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (born 1924) was the first Black woman to serve in the United States Congress. She served as the representative for the 12th district of New York from 1969 until 1982. In 1972, when she became the first black woman to actively run for the presidency of the United States, she won ten percent of the votes at the Democratic National Convention.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Barbadian parents, Chisholm was raised in an atmosphere that was both political and religious. Her father was a staunch follower of the West Indian political activist Marcus Garvey, who advocated black pride and unity among blacks to achieve economic and political power. Chisholm received much of her primary education in her parents homeland, Barbados, under the strict eye of her maternal grandmother. Chisholm, who returned to New York when she was ten years old, credits her educational successes to the well-rounded early training she received in Barbados.

Attending New York public schools, Chisholm was able to compete well in the predominantly white classrooms. She attended Girls' High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a section of the city with a growing poor black and immigrant population. She won tuition scholarships to both Oberlin and Vassar, but at the urging of her parents decided to live at home and attend Brooklyn College. While training to be a teacher she became active in several campus and community groups. Developing a keen interest in politics, she began to learn the arts of organizing and fund raising. She deeply resented the role of women in local politics, which consisted mostly of staying in the background, sponsoring fund raising events, and turning the money over to male party leaders who would then decide how to use it. During her school years, she became interested in the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and eventually joined both groups.

From Classroom to Congress

After graduating cum laude from Brooklyn College in 1946 Chisholm began to work as a nursery school teacher and later as a director of schools for early childhood education. In 1949 she married Conrad Chisholm. She continued to teach but her political interest never waned. After a successful career as a teacher, Chisholm decided to run for the New York State Assembly in 1964. She won the election.

During the time that she served in the assembly, Chisholm sponsored 50 bills, but only eight of them passed. The bills she sponsored reflected her interest in the cause of blacks and the poor, women's rights, and educational opportunities. One of the successful bills provided assistance for poor students to go on for higher education. Another provided employment insurance coverage for personal and domestic employees. Still another reversed a law that caused female teachers in New York to lose their tenure while they were out on maternity leave.

Chisholm served in the State Assembly until 1968 and then decided to run for the U.S. Congress. Her opponent was the noted civil rights leader James Farmer. Possibly because Chisholm was a well-known resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Farmer was not, she won easily. Thus began her tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives from the 91st through the 97th Congress (1969-1982). Always considering herself a political maverick, Chisholm attempted to focus as much of her attention as possible on the needs of her constituents. She served on several House committees: Agriculture, Veterans' Affairs, Rules and Education, and Labor. During the 91st Congress when she was assigned to the Forestry Committee, she protested saying that she wanted to work on committees that could deal with the "critical problems of racism, deprivation and urban decay." (There are no forests in Bedford-Stuyvesant.)

Chisholm began to protest the amount of money being expended for the defense budget while social programs suffered. She argued that she would not agree that money should be spent for war while Americans were hungry, ill-housed, and poorly educated. Early in her career as a congresswoman she began to support legislation allowing abortions for women who chose to have them. Chisholm protested the traditional roles for women professionals—secretaries, teachers, and librarians. She argued that women were capable of entering many other professions and that they should be encouraged to do so. Black women, too, she felt, had been shunted into stereotypical maid and nanny roles from which they needed to escape both by legislation and by self-effort. Her antiwar and women's liberation views made her a popular figure among college students, and she was beseiged with invitations to speak at college campuses.

Presidential Contender

In 1972 Chisholm made the decision that she would run for the highest office in the land—the presidency. In addition to her interest in civil rights for blacks, women, and the poor, she spoke out about the judicial system in the United States, police brutality, prison reform, gun control, politician dissent, drug abuse, and numerous other topics. She appeared on the television show "Face the Nation" with three other democratic presidential candidates: George McGovern, Henry Jackson, and Edmund Muskie. George McGovern won the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention, but Chisholm captured ten percent of the delegates' votes. As a result of her candidacy, Chisholm was voted one of the ten most admired women in the world.

After her unsuccessful presidential campaign, Chisholm continued to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for another decade. As a member of the Black Caucus she was able to watch black representation in the Congress grow and to welcome other black female congresswomen. Finally, in 1982, she announced her retirement from the Congress.

Final Years

From 1983 to 1987 Chisholm served as Purington Professor at Massachusetts' Mt. Holyoke College where she taught politics and women's studies. In 1985 she was the visiting scholar at Spelman College, and in 1987 retired from teaching altogether. Chisholm continued to be involved in politics by cofounding the National Political Congress of Black Women in 1984. She also worked vigorously for the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. "Jackson is the voice of the poor, the disenchanted, the disillusioned," Chisholm was quoted as saying in Newsweek, "and that is exactly what I was."

In 1993 President Bill Clinton nominated Chisolm as Ambassador to Jamaica, but due to declining health, she withdrew her name from further consideration.

Further Reading

Chisholm has written two autobiographical accounts, Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973). There are several other books about her political career which are especially geared to young readers. A few of them are: Lenore K. Itzkowitz, Shirley Chisholm for President (1974); James Haskins, Fighting Shirley Chisholm (1975); and Nancy Hicks, The Honorable Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman from Brooklyn (1971). The Congressional Record for the 91st through 97th Congress can be used to find the texts of Chisholm's speeches. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701331.html

"Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404701331.html

Chisholm, Shirley

Chisholm, Shirley 1924-2005

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 30, 1924. Chisholm graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946 and began her career as an educator. Her belief in the power and necessity of education motivated her to earn her masters degree in early childhood education from Columbia University in New York in 1952 and eventually launched the political career for which she is revered. Working with the New York City Bureau of Child Welfare, along with her involvement in local organizations, Chisholm solidified many of the relationships that led to her election to the New York State Assembly in 1964. Only four years after assuming that position, Chisholm made the transition from state politics to national politics with her election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968, becoming the first black woman elected to Congress.

In Congress, Chisholm continued to live up to her campaign slogan of Unbought and Unbossed. She routinely spoke against politics and policies that she viewed as unfavorable to the American people. Moreover, Chisholm did not let the exigencies of reelection rule her actions in Congress. She did what she thought was right, proper, and best. This frequently made her unpopular both with her mostly male colleagues and her constituents. As a result, much of Chisholms career was spent on the margins. She was conscious of how both her race and gender excluded her from the male dominated social network that ran Congress. Her commitment never waned, despite this opposition, and as a result she was elected to seven terms in the House of Representatives before retiring in 1982. She was also one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971.

Despite her historical importance as a congresswoman, Chisholm is best known for her run for the U.S. presidency in 1972. Chisholm ran in the Democratic primary against several male contenders, but not to win in a conventional sense. Chisholm felt that her candidacy served primarily a reform function by keeping her male counterparts focused on the issues. Despite her intentions in entering the race, she faced discrimination from the mostly male political establishment. Many felt that Chisholm should have allowed a black man to run for president before a women tried to do so. Furthermore, her presence in the race was unwelcome, as evidenced by the lack of media coverage of her candidacy. Well aware of these dynamics, Chisholm was undaunted and entered the primary. Though she would lose, she was able to make a notable showing in the primary. After her foray into presidential politics, Chisholm returned to the House of Representatives, where she served until 1982. Upon retiring, Chisholm settled into a quiet life with her husband, Arthur Hardwick. In 1991 Chisholm, now a widow, relocated to Florida where she lived until her death in January 2005.

Chisholms success came from her commitment to humanistic, people-centered leadership. She wanted to inspire individuals, especially women, to believe in their abilities to effect change in their world. Her goals transcended color as she worked tirelessly for a responsive government that would act for the sake of all people, not for special interests. Though it cost her at times, Chisholm remained faithful to the principles of democracy. She was a reflective leader at a tumultuous time, and this is the legacy her leadership leaves behind.

SEE ALSO National Organization of Women; Women and Politics

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brownmiller, Susan. 1970. Shirley Chisholm: A Biography. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Chisholm, Shirley. 1970. Unbought and Unbossed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Chisholm, Shirley. 1973. The Good Fight. New York: Harper.

Duffy, Susan, ed. 1988. Shirley Chisholm: A Bibliography of Writings by and about Her. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow.

Niambi Carter

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Chisholm, Shirley." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Chisholm, Shirley." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (June 25, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045300325.html

"Chisholm, Shirley." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. Retrieved June 25, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3045300325.html

Facts and information from other sites