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Shirley Chisholm was a trailblazer for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

"I want history to remember me not just as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself."

Shirley Chisolm (11/30/1924 - 01/01/2005) 

While the world is mesmerized by the success of the presidential campaign of Barack Obama and applauds Hillary Clinton as the first woman with , it is the pioneering Ms. Chisholm who must not be forgotten in the history of this country.

Ms. Chisholm's announcement of her candidacy is remarkably similar to the philosophy espoused by Barack Obama and quickly hijacked by other candidates after his Iowa win. It's a shame that we're still dealing with many of the same issues almost forty years later but it is what it is.

Here's more about Ms. Chisholm from

Shirley Chisholm was born in New York but spent seven of her early years growing up in Barbados with her grandmother. She returned to New York and her parents in time to study at Brooklyn College. She met Eleanor Roosevelt when she was 14, and took to heart Mrs. Roosevelt's advice: "don't let anybody stand in your way."

Chisholm worked as a nursery school teacher and director of a nursery school and child care center after graduation from college, then worked for the city as an educational consultant. She also became involved in grassroots community organizing and the Democratic party. She helped to form the Unity Democratic Club, in 1960. Her community base helped make possible a win when she ran for the New York State Assembly in 1964.

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm ran for Congress from Brooklyn, winning that seat while running against James Farmer, a veteran of the 1960s Freedom Rides in the south. She thus became the first black woman elected to Congress. She hired only women for her staff. She was known for taking positions against the Vietnam war. for minority and women's issues, and for challenging the Congressional seniority system.

In 1971, Chisholm was a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus.

When Chisholm ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972, she knew that she could not win the nomination, but she nevertheless wanted to raise issues she felt were important. She was the first black and the first woman to run for president.

Chisholm served in Congress for seven terms, until 1982. In 1984, she helped form the National Political Congress of Black Women (NPCBW). She taught, as the Purington Professor at Mount Holyoke College, and spoke widely. She moved to Florida in 1991. She briefly served as ambassador to Jamaica during the Clinton administration.

Shirley Chisholm died in Florida in 2005 after a series of strokes.

In 2004, she said about herself, "I want history to remember me not just as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself."

Organizations/Religion: League of Women Voters, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), National Womens Political Caucus, Delta Sigma Theta; Methodist


  • Unbought and Unbossed (1970)
  • The Good Fight (1973)

My favorite Shirley Chisholm quotes:

Of my two "handicaps" being female put more obstacles in my path than being black.

I've always met more discrimination being a woman than being black.

Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread and deepseated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.

My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn't always discuss for reasons of political expediency.

The United States was said not to be ready to elect a Catholic to the Presidency when Al Smith ran in the 1920's. 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.

There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter. Anyone who takes that role must pay a price.

One distressing thing is the way men react to women who assert their equality: their ultimate weapon is to call them unfeminine. They think she is anti-male; they even whisper that she's probably a lesbian.

Tremendous amounts of talent are being lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.

Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. (also attributed to Marian Wright Edelman)

I am not antiwhite, because I understand that white people, like black ones, are victims of a racist society. They are products of their time and place.

The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It's a girl.

When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom profit that loses.

It is not heroin or cocaine that makes one an addict, it is the need to escape from a harsh reality. There are more television addicts, more baseball and football addicts, more movie addicts, and certainly more alcohol addicts in this country than there are narcotics addicts.

Related Links:

AlterNet: Unbought and Unbossed