The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 30th of 1924. Most people know previous congresswoman Chisholm for her notable political work and activism. I believe that it’s only right if we learn about some of her life prior to and outside of the political realm, as it may give us some insight into her life outside of politics as well as some of the factors that may have given her the strength to persevere when things got hectic. (For example, the three assassination attempts that took place during her presidential campaign in 1972. We will discuss that later, though.)
While she was born in New York many of her formative years were spent in Barbados. From the ages of three to ten, Shirley lived with her grandmother on a farm and received her primary education in the Barbadian school system. A school system which created “well-rounded early education” (Notable Biographies). To which she accredited “much of her educational success to.” (Notable Biographies). After primary school she moved back to the United States to finish her middle and high school education. Shirley continued her higher education at Brooklyn College in New York where she participated in many of the campus’ political based organizations and studied to become a teacher. “Although professors encouraged her to consider a political career, she replied that she faced a “double handicap” as both Black and female.”(Michals)
While at the time a career in politics may have seemed far-fetched, Chisholm would eventually find her way back to politics. Some may say that it was chance but I personally, believe it was fate. She went on to do a lot and quickly at that.
“In 1964, Chisholm ran for and became the second African American in the New York State Legislature. After court-ordered redistricting created a new, heavily Democratic, district in her neighborhood, in 1968 Chisholm sought—and won—a seat in Congress. There, “Fighting Shirley” introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation and championed racial and gender equality, the plight of the poor, and ending the Vietnam War. She was a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, and in 1977 became the first Black woman and second woman ever to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee.” (Michals)
In Chisholm’s presidential campaign, aside from the general struggles that she faced due to her being Black and a woman, she was met with 3 assassination attempts as well. She also had to sue to be included in debates that were televised during her campaign. While she was not nominated she surely created a seat at the table, made history, and paved the way for those who followed after her.