Chisholm in 1972
|Secretary of the Democratic House Caucus|
January 3, 1977 – January 3, 1981
|Preceded by||Patsy Mink|
|Succeeded by||Geraldine Ferraro|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 12th district
January 3, 1969 – January 3, 1983
|Preceded by||Edna F. Kelly|
|Succeeded by||Major R. Owens|
|Member of the New York State Assembly from the 55th district|
January 1, 1967 – December 31, 1968
|Preceded by||Herbert H. Marker|
|Succeeded by||Thomas R. Fortune|
|Member of the New York State Assembly from the 45th district|
January 1, 1966 – December 31, 1966
|Preceded by||District created|
|Succeeded by||Max M. Turshen|
|Member of the New York State Assembly from King's 17th district|
January 1, 1965 – December 31, 1965
|Preceded by||Thomas R. Jones|
|Succeeded by||District abolished|
November 30, 1924|
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||January 1, 2005
Ormond Beach, Florida
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Cemetery
(Buffalo, New York)
|Spouse(s)||Conrad Chisholm (divorced)
Arthur Hardwick Jr. (widowed)
|Alma mater||Brooklyn College
Teachers College, Columbia University
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (November 30, 1924 – January 1, 2005) was an American politician, educator, and author. In 1968, she became the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress, and represented New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In 1972, she became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, and the first woman ever to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.[lower-alpha 1]
In 2008, Chisholm's legacy came into renewed prominence during the Democratic presidential primaries, when Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton staged their historic 'firsts' battle -- where the victor would either be the first major party African-American nominee, or the first woman nominee -- with observers crediting Chisholm's 1972 campaign as having paved the way for both of them.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career as educator
- 3 State legislator
- 4 Member of Congress
- 5 Subsequent years and death
- 6 Historic "Firsts"
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Writings
- 9 Awards and honors
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Early life and education
Shirley Anita St. Hill was born in Brooklyn, New York, to immigrant parents from the Caribbean region. She had three younger sisters. Their father, Charles Christopher St. Hill, was born in British Guyana and arrived in the United States via Antilla, Cuba, on April 10, 1923, aboard the S.S. Munamar in New York City. Their mother, Ruby Seale, was born in Christ Church, Barbados, and arrived in New York City aboard the S.S. Pocone on March 8, 1921. Her father worked in a factory that made burlap bags and her mother was a seamstress and domestic worker.
At age three, Shirley was sent to Barbados to live with her maternal grandmother, Emaline Seale, in Christ Church, where she attended the Vauxhall Primary School. Her mother believed it would provide a stronger education than American schools. She did not return to the United States until May 19, 1934, aboard the S.S. Narissa in New York. As a result, Shirley spoke with a recognizable West Indian accent throughout her life. In her 1970 autobiography Unbought and Unbossed, she wrote: "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. If I speak and write easily now, that early education is the main reason."
Beginning in 1939, Shirley attended Girls' High School in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, a highly regarded, integrated school that attracted girls from throughout Brooklyn. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Brooklyn College in 1946, where she won prizes for her debating skills. She was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
She met Conrad O. Chisholm in the late 1940s. He had come to the U.S. from Jamaica in 1946 and would later become a private investigator who specialized in negligence-based lawsuits. They married in 1949 in a large West Indian-style wedding.
Career as educator
From 1953 to 1959, she was director of the Friends Day Nursery in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center in lower Manhattan. From 1959 to 1964, she was an educational consultant for the Division of Day Care. She became known as an authority on issues involving early education and child welfare.
Running a day care center got her interested in politics, and during this time she formed the basis of her political career, working as a volunteer for white-dominated political clubs in Brooklyn, and with the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League and the League of Women Voters.
Chisholm was a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly from 1965 to 1968, sitting in the 175th, 176th and 177th New York State Legislatures. Her successes in the legislature included getting unemployment benefits extended to domestic workers. She also sponsored the introduction of a SEEK program (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) to the state, which provided disadvantaged students the chance to enter college while receiving intensive remedial education.
In August 1968, she was elected as the Democratic National Committeewoman from New York State.
Member of Congress
In 1968 she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 12th congressional district, which as part of a court-mandated reapportionment plan had been significantly redrawn to focus on Bedford-Stuyvesant and was thus expected to result in Brooklyn's first black member of Congress. (As a result, the white incumbent in the former 12th, Representative Edna F. Kelly, sought re-election in a different district.) Chisholm announced her candidacy around January 1968 and established some early organizational support. Her campaign slogan was "Unbought and unbossed". In the June 18, 1968, Democratic primary, Chisholm defeated two other black opponents, State Senator William S. Thompson and labor official Dollie Robertson. In the general election, she staged an upset victory over James L. Farmer, Jr., the former director of the Congress of Racial Equality who was running as a Liberal Party candidate with Republican support, winning by an approximately two-to-one margin. Chisholm thereby became the first black woman elected to Congress.
Chisholm was assigned to the House Agricultural Committee. Given her urban district, she felt the placement was irrelevant to her constituents. When Chisholm confided to Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson that she was upset and insulted by her assignment, Schneerson suggested that she use the surplus food to help the poor and hungry. Chisholm subsequently met Robert Dole, and worked to expand the food stamp program. She later played a critical role in the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Chisholm would credit Schneerson for the fact that so many "poor babies [now] have milk and poor children have food." Chisholm was then also placed on the Veterans' Affairs Committee. Soon after, she voted for Hale Boggs as House Majority Leader over John Conyers. As a reward for her support, Boggs assigned her to the much-prized Education and Labor Committee, which was her preferred committee. She was the third highest-ranking member of this committee when she retired from Congress.
All those Chisholm hired for her office were women; half of these were African-American. Chisholm said that she had faced much more discrimination during her New York legislative career because she was a woman than because of her race.
In May 1971 she, along with fellow New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug, introduced a bill to provide $10 billion in federal funds for child care services by 1975. A less expensive version introduced by Senator Walter Mondale eventually passed the House and Senate as the Comprehensive Child Development Bill, but was vetoed by President Richard Nixon in December 1971, who said it was too expensive and would undermine the institution of the family.
1972 presidential campaign
In 1972, Chisholm became the first black major-party candidate to run for President of the United States, in the 1972 U.S. presidential election, making her also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. During the campaign, she survived three assassination attempts. At the Democratic Convention, she won 152 first-ballot votes. Decades later, observers would credit Chisholm's 1972 campaign as paving the way for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in their bids for the presidency in 2008.
Chisholm began exploring her candidacy in July 1971, and formally announced her presidential bid on January 25, 1972, in a Baptist church in her district in Brooklyn. There she called for a "bloodless revolution" at the forthcoming Democratic nomination convention.
Her campaign was poorly organized and underfunded from the start, only spending $300,000 in total. She also struggled to be regarded as a serious candidate instead of as a symbolic political figure; she was ignored by much of the Democratic political establishment and received little support from her black male colleagues. Many headlines constructed Chisholm as an emasculating matriarch with headlines such as the Boston Globe’s “Rep. Shirley Chisholm outflanks her black political brothers”. She later reiterated, "When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men." In particular, she expressed frustration about the "black matriarch thing", saying, "They think I am trying to take power from them. The black man must step forward, but that doesn't mean the black woman must step back." Her husband, however, was fully supportive of her candidacy and said, "I have no hangups about a woman running for president."
Chisholm skipped the initial March 7 New Hampshire contest, instead focusing on the March 14 Florida primary, which she thought would be receptive due to its "blacks, youth and a strong women's movement". But due to organizational difficulties and Congressional responsibilities, she only made two campaign swings there and ended with 3.5 percent of the vote for a seventh-place finish. Chisholm had difficulties gaining ballot access, but campaigned or received votes in primaries in fourteen states. Her largest number of votes came in the June 6 California primary, where she received 157,435 votes for 4.4 percent and a fourth-place finish, while her best percentage in a competitive primary came in the May 6 North Carolina one, where she got 7.5 percent for a third-place finish. Overall, she won 28 delegates during the primaries process itself. Chisholm's base of support was ethnically diverse and included the National Organization for Women. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem attempted to run as Chisholm delegates in New York. Altogether during the primary season, she received 430,703 votes, which was 2.7 percent of the total of nearly 16 million cast and represented seventh place among the Democratic contenders.
At the 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, there were still efforts taking place by the campaign of former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to stop the nomination of Senator George McGovern. After that failed and McGovern's nomination was assured, as a symbolic gesture, Humphrey released his black delegates to Chisholm. This, combined with defections from disenchanted delegates from other candidates, as well as the delegates she had won in the primaries, gave her a total of 152 first-ballot votes for the nomination during the July 12 roll call. (Her precise total was 151.95.) Her largest support overall came from Ohio, with 23 delegates (slightly more than half of them white), even though she had not been on the ballot in the May 2 primary there. Her total gave her fourth place in the roll call tally, behind McGovern's winning total of 1,728 delegates. Chisholm said she ran for the office "in spite of hopeless odds ... to demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo." Among the volunteers who were inspired by her campaign was Barbara Lee, who continued to be politically active and was elected as a congresswoman 25 years later.
It is sometimes stated that Chisholm won a primary during 1972, or won three states overall, with New Jersey, Louisiana, and Mississippi being so identified. None of these fit the usual definition of winning a plurality of the contested popular vote or delegate allocations at the time of a state primary or caucus or state convention. In the June 6 New Jersey primary, there was a complex ballot that featured both a delegate selection vote and a non-binding, non-delegate-producing "beauty contest" presidential preference vote. In the delegate selection vote, Democratic front-runner Senator George McGovern defeated his main rival at that point, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, and won the large share of available delegates. Most of the Democratic candidates were not on the preference ballot, including McGovern and Humphrey; of the two that were, Chisholm and former governor of North Carolina Terry Sanford, Sanford had withdrawn from the contest three weeks earlier. In the actual preference ballot voting, which the Associated Press described as "meaningless", Chisholm received the majority of votes: 51,433, which was 66.9 percent. During the actual balloting at the national convention, Chisholm received votes from only 4 of New Jersey's 109 delegates, with 89 going to McGovern. In the May 13 Louisiana caucuses, there was a battle between forces of McGovern and Governor George Wallace; nearly all of the delegates chosen were those who identified as uncommitted, many of them black. Leading up to the convention, McGovern was thought to control 20 of Louisiana's 44 delegates, with most of the rest uncommitted. During the actual roll call at the national convention, Louisiana passed at first, then cast 18½ of its 44 votes for Chisholm, with the next best finishers being McGovern and Senator Henry M. Jackson with 10¼ each. As one delegate explained, "Our strategy was to give Shirley our votes for sentimental reasons on the first ballot. However, if our votes would have made the difference, we would have gone with McGovern." In Mississippi, there were two rival party factions that each selected delegates at their own state conventions and caucuses: "regulars" representing the mostly white state Democratic Party and "loyalists" representing many blacks and white liberals. Each slate professed to be largely uncommitted, but the regulars were thought to favor Wallace and the loyalists McGovern. By the time of the national convention, the loyalists were seated following a credentials challenge, and their delegates were characterized as mostly supporting McGovern, with some support for Humphrey. During the convention, some McGovern delegates became angry about what they saw as statements from McGovern that backed away from his commitment to end U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, and cast protest votes for Chisholm as a result. During the actual balloting, Mississippi went in the first half of the roll call, and cast 12 of its 25 votes for Chisholm, with McGovern coming next with 10 votes.
Chisholm created controversy when she visited rival and ideological opposite George Wallace in the hospital soon after his shooting in May 1972, during the 1972 presidential primary campaign. Several years later, when Chisholm worked on a bill to give domestic workers the right to a minimum wage, Wallace helped gain votes of enough Southern congressmen to push the legislation through the House.
Throughout her tenure in Congress, Chisholm worked to improve opportunities for inner-city residents. She was a vocal opponent of the draft and supported spending increases for education, health care and other social services, and reductions in military spending.
In the area of national security and foreign policy, Chisholm worked for the revocation of Internal Security Act of 1950. She opposed the American involvement in the Vietnam War and the expansion of weapon developments. During the Jimmy Carter administration, she called for better treatment of Haitian refugees.
Chisholm's first marriage ended in divorce in February 1977. Later that year she married Arthur Hardwick, Jr., a former New York State Assemblyman whom Chisholm had known when they both served in that body and who was now a Buffalo liquor store owner. Chisholm had no children.
Hardwick was subsequently injured in an automobile accident; desiring to take care of him, and also dissatisfied with the course of liberal politics in the wake of the Reagan Revolution, she announced her retirement from Congress in 1982. Hardwick died in 1986.
Subsequent years and death
After leaving Congress, Chisholm made her home in Williamsville, New York. She resumed her career in education, being named to the Purington Chair at the all-women Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. As such she was not a member of any particular department, but would be able to teach classes in a variety of areas; those previously holding the position included W. H. Auden, Bertrand Russell, and Arna Bontemps.
At Mount Holyoke, she taught politics and sociology from 1983 to 1987. She focused on undergraduate courses that covered politics as it involved women and race. Dean of faculty Joseph Ellis later said that Chisholm "contributed to the vitality of the College and gave the College a presence." In 1985 she was a visiting scholar at Spelman College.
During those years, she continued to give speeches at colleges, by her own count visiting over 150 campuses since becoming nationally known. She told students to avoid polarization and intolerance: "If you don't accept others who are different, it means nothing that you've learned calculus." Continuing to be involved politically, she traveled to visit different minority groups and urging them to become a strong force at the local level. In 1984 and 1988, she campaigned for Jesse Jackson for the presidential elections. In 1990, Chisholm, along with 15 other African-American women and men, formed the African-American Women for Reproductive Freedom.
Chisholm retired to Florida in 1991. In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her to be United States Ambassador to Jamaica, but she could not serve due to poor health and the nomination was withdrawn. In the same year she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
- First African-American woman ever elected to the United States Congress.
- First major-party black candidate for President of the United States.
- First woman candidate to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In February 2005, Shirley Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed, a documentary film, aired on U.S public television. It chronicled Chisholm's 1972 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was directed and produced by independent, African-American filmmaker Shola Lynch. The film was featured at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004. On April 9, 2006, the film was announced as a winner of a Peabody Award.
The Shirley Chisholm Center for Research on Women exists at Brooklyn College to promote research projects and programs on women and to preserve the legacy of Chisholm. The college's library also houses an archive called the Shirley Chisholm Project on Brooklyn Women's Activism.
Chisholm wrote two autobiographical books.
- Chisholm, Shirley (1970). Unbought and Unbossed. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-10932-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Chisholm, Shirley (1973). The Good Fight. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-010764-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Awards and honors
- Chisholm was the keynote speaker at Hunter College's graduation in 1971.
- In 1974, Chisholm was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Aquinas College and was their commencement speaker.
- In 1975, Chisholm was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Smith College.
- In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
- In 1996, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by Stetson University, in Deland, FL.
- In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Shirley Chisholm on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
- On January 31, 2014, the Shirley Chisholm Forever Stamp was issued. It is the 37th stamp in the Black Heritage series of U.S. stamps.
- In November 2015, Chisholm was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama at a ceremony in the White House.
- This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Shirley Chisholm", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.
- PBS P.O.V. documentary. Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed.
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- Shirley Chisholm, Unbought and Unbossed: Expanded 40th Anniversary Edition, Take Root Media, 2010, p. 38.
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- Madden, Richard L. (November 6, 1968). "Mrs. Chisholm Defeats Farmer, Is First Negro Woman in House". The New York Times. pp. 1, 25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- "Mrs. Chisholm, Mrs. Abzug Introduce Child Care Bill". The New York Times. Associated Press. May 18, 1971.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- Shirley Chisholm, Our Campaigns
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- Presidential Elections 1789–2008 (5th ed.). Volume 1. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press. 2005. pp. 366–369 (primaries), 652–653 (convention).CS1 maint: location (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- House resolution 97, Recognizing Contributions, Achievements, and Dedicated Work of Shirley Anita Chisholm, [Congressional Record: June 12, 2001 (House). Page H3019-H3025] From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:cr12jn01-85]
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- "Wallace Gets 29 Tennessee Delegates". The News and Courier. Charleston, South Carolina. Associated Press. May 14, 1972. p. 4D.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- Democracy Now! radio station news
- Charles R. Babcock, "Rep. Chisholm Asks Equity For Haiti's Black Refugees", Washington Post, June 18, 1980.
- Haberman, Clyde; Johnston, Laurie (August 3, 1982). "New York Day by Day: Shirley Chisholm's New Job". The New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Manuel, Diane Casselberry (December 13, 1983). "For Shirley Chisholm, life in academia is hardly sedentary". The Christian Science Monitor.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- "Statement on the Withdrawal of the Nomination of Shirley Chisholm To Be Ambassador to Jamaica". The White House. October 13, 1993.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- National Women's Hall of Fame, Women of the Hall - Shirley Chisholm
- "Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed (2004)" at IMDb.
- 65th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2006.
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- on YouTube
- Shirley Chisholm's Unbought and Unbossed book web site by editor Scot Simpson
- Shirley Chisholm's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- Biography by Jone Johnson Lewis
- Shirley Chisholm at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Chisholm speech on the Equal Rights Amendment
- Shirley Chisholm's 1972 Presidential Campaign
- Chisholm '72 - Unbought & Unbossed PBS American Documentary | POV documentary by Shola Lynch
- Chisholm '72 - Unbought & Unbossed Women Make Movies documentary by Shola Lynch
- Feature on Shirley Chisholm, with writing from Gloria Steinem and video clips from Chisholm '72 Unbought & Unbossed, by the International Museum of Women.
- Shirley Chisholm at Find a Grave
|New York Assembly|
Thomas R. Jones
|New York State Assembly
Kings County, 17th District
|New York State Assembly
Max M. Turshen
Herbert H. Marker
|New York State Assembly
Thomas R. Fortune
|United States House of Representatives|
Edna F. Kelly
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 12th congressional district
Major R. Owens
|Party political offices|
|Secretary of the Democratic Caucus of the United States House of Representatives