SHIRLEY ANITA CHISHOLM (née ST. HILL; November 30, 1924 – January
1, 2005) was an American politician, educator, and author. In 1968,
she became the first black woman elected to the
United States Congress
, and she represented New York\'s 12th Congressional District for
seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In 1972, she became the first black
candidate for a major party's nomination for President of the United
States , and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party 's
In 2015, Chisholm was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of
* 1 Early life and education
* 2 Career as educator
* 3 State legislator
* 4 Member of Congress
* 4.1 Initial election
* 4.2 Early terms
* 4.3 1972 presidential campaign
* 4.4 Later terms
* 5 Subsequent years and death
* 6 Legacy
* 7 Awards and honors
* 8 Writings
* 9 See also
* 10 References
* 11 Bibliography
* 12 External links
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Shirley Anita St. Hill was born on November 30, 1924, in Brooklyn,
New York , to immigrant parents from the Caribbean region. She had
three younger sisters, two born within three years after St. Hill,
one later. Their father, Charles Christopher St. Hill, was born in
British Guiana , lived in
Barbados for a while, and then arrived in
United States via
Antilla, Cuba , on April 10, 1923, aboard the
S.S. Munamar in
New York City
New York City . Their mother, Ruby Seale, was born in
Barbados , and arrived in
New York City
New York City aboard the S.S.
Pocone on March 8, 1921.
Her father was an unskilled laborer who sometimes worked in a factory
that made burlap bags, but when he could not find factory employment
instead worked as a baker's helper, while her mother was a skilled
seamstress and domestic worker who had trouble working and raising the
children at the same time. As a consequence, in November 1929 as St.
Hill turned five, she and her two sisters were sent to
Barbados on the
S.S. Vulcana to live with their maternal grandmother, Emaline Seale.
There they lived on the grandmother's farm in the Vauxhall village in
Christ Church, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse that took
education seriously. She did not return to the
United States until
May 19, 1934, aboard the
SS Nerissa in New York. As a result, St.
Hill 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." As a result of her time on
the island, and regardless of her U.S. birth, St. Hill would always
consider herself a
Barbadian American . Regarding the role of her
grandmother, she later said, "Granny gave me strength, dignity, and
love. I learned from an early age that I was somebody. I didn't need
the black revolution to tell me that."
Beginning in 1939, St. Hill attended Girls\' High School in the
Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, a highly regarded,
integrated school that attracted girls from throughout Brooklyn. St.
Hill earned her
Bachelor of Arts from
Brooklyn College in 1946, where
she won prizes for her debating skills. She was a member of Delta
Sigma Theta sorority.
St. Hill met Conrad O. Chisholm in the late 1940s. He had come to
the U.S. from
Jamaica in 1946 and later became a private investigator
who specialized in negligence-based lawsuits. They married in 1949 in
a large West Indian-style wedding.
Chisholm taught in a nursery school while furthering her education,
earning her MA in elementary education from
Teachers College at
Columbia University in 1952.
CAREER AS EDUCATOR
From 1953 to 1959, she was director of the Friends Day Nursery in
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
. With the Political League she was part of a committee that chose
the recipient of its annual Brotherhood Award. She also was a
representative of the
Brooklyn branch of the National Association of
College Women .
Chisholm reviewing political statistics in 1965.
Chisholm was a Democratic member of the
New York State Assembly
New York State Assembly from
1965 to 1968, sitting in the 175th , 176th and 177th New York State
Legislatures . By May 1965 she had already been honored in a "Salute
to Women Doers" affair in New York. One of her early activities in
the Assembly was to argue against the state's literacy test requiring
English, holding that just because a person "functions better in his
native language is no sign a person is illiterate." By early 1966 she
was a leader in a push by the statewide Council of Elected Negro
Democrats for black representation on key committees in the Assembly.
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
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. (Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
had, in 1945, become the first black member of Congress from New York
City as a whole.) As a result of the redrawing, 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
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and
Children (WIC) program. Chisholm would credit Schneerson for the fact
that so many "poor babies 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 black. 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.
Chisholm joined the
Congressional Black Caucus
Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 as one of its
founding members. In the same year, she was also a founding member of
the National Women\'s Political Caucus .
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. Portrait of
Kadir Nelson in the Collection of the U.S. House of
1972 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
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.
Chisholm became the first black major-party candidate to run for
President of the United States
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 (U.S. Senator Margaret
Chase Smith had previously run for the Republican presidential
nomination in 1964).
Her campaign was underfunded, 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. She later said, "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." Security was also a concern, as during the
campaign three confirmed threats were made against her life; Conrad
Chisholm served as her bodyguard until
U.S. Secret Service protection
was given to her in May 1972.
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 trips 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
1972 Democratic National Convention in
Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida ,
there were still efforts taking place by the campaign of former Vice
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
Henry M. Jackson
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.
During the campaign the German filmmaker
Peter Lilienthal shot the
Shirley Chisholm for President for German Television
Chisholm at the
1984 Democratic National Convention
Chisholm created controversy when she visited rival and ideological
George Wallace in the hospital soon after his shooting in May
1972, during the 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.
From 1977 to 1981, during the 95th Congress and 96th Congress ,
Chisholm was elected to a position in the House Democratic leadership,
as Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus .
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
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
Shirley Chisholm (center) with Congressman
Edolphus Towns (left)
and his wife, Gwen Towns (right)
Shirley Chisholm Memorial Service, Congressional Black Caucus,
February 15, 2005,
After leaving Congress, Chisholm made her home in suburban
Williamsville, New York . She resumed her career in education, being
named to the Purington Chair at the all-women
Mount Holyoke College
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
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
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
Jesse Jackson for the presidential elections. In 1990, Chisholm,
along with 15 other black 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
Chisholm died on January 1, 2005, in Ormond Beach near Daytona Beach,
after suffering several strokes. She is buried in the Oakwood
Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, where the legend
inscribed on her vault reads: "Unbought and Unbossed".
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 .
Chisholm's legacy came into renewed prominence during the 2008
Democratic presidential primaries , when
Barack Obama and Hillary
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 at least one observer crediting
Chisholm's 1972 campaign as having paved the way for both of them.
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
In 2014, the first adult biography of Chisholm was published, Shirley
Chisholm: Catalyst for Change, by
Brooklyn College history professor
Barbara Winslow. Until then, only several juvenile biographies had
Chisholm's speech "For the
Equal Rights Amendment ", given in 1970,
is listed as #91 in American Rhetoric's Top 100 Speeches of the 20th
Century (listed by rank).
AWARDS AND HONORS
* Chisholm was the keynote speaker at
Hunter College 's graduation
* 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 1991, Chisholm was the commencement speaker at East Stroudsburg
East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania , where she received the
first ever conferred honorary doctorate from the university. An annual
ESU student award was created in her honor.
* 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, Florida.
* In 2002, scholar
Molefi Kete Asante listed
Shirley Chisholm on his
100 Greatest African Americans .
* On January 31, 2014, the
Forever Stamp was
issued. It is the 37th stamp in the Black Heritage series of U.S.
* In November 2015, Chisholm was posthumously awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom by President
Barack Obama at a ceremony
White House .
Chisholm wrote two autobiographical books.
* Chisholm, Shirley (1970). Unbought and Unbossed. Houghton Mifflin.
ISBN 978-0-395-10932-8 .
* Chisholm, Shirley (2010). Scott Simpson, ed. Unbought and
Unbossed: Expanded 40th Anniversary Edition. Take Root Media. ISBN
978-0-9800590-2-1 . Also available via the editor Scott Simpson\'s
* Chisholm, Shirley (1973). The Good Fight. Harper Collins. ISBN
List of African-American United States Representatives
* Women in the
United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
This article incorporates material from the
"Shirley Chisholm", which is licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL .
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* ^ House resolution 97, Recognizing Contributions, Achievements,
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* ^ Delaney, Paul (July 11, 1972). "Humphrey Blacks to Vote For
Mrs. Chisholm First". The New York Times. p. 1.
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* ^ "Congress Honors Shirley Chisholm, the First African American
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* ^ Charles R. Babcock, "Rep. Chisholm Asks Equity For Haiti's
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* ^ "
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* ^ Sandberg, Betsy (February 18, 1988). "
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* ^ "Statement on the Withdrawal of the Nomination of Shirley
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* ^ National Women's Hall of Fame, Women of the Hall - Shirley
* ^ Steve Skafte (18 January 2004). "Chisholm \'72: Unbought &
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* ^ "
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* ^ Winslow, Shirley Chisholm, p. 153.
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* ^ "Honorary Degrees". Smith College. Archived from the original
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* ^ "
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* ^ "Home - National Women\'s Hall of Fame". National Women’s
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* ^ "
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* Appearances on