Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm paved the political path for legislators such as Barbara Jordan, Geraldine Ferraro and Maxine Waters when she became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968.

A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Chisholm's parents came from Barbados and Guyana. Her activism started when she was a student at Brooklyn College, where she majored in sociology. Chisholm fought against the racism she encountered at college. When the black students were denied admittance to a social club, she helped form an alternative club.

Chisholm graduated with honors in 1946 and like many other black college students, had difficulty getting a job befitting her education. After many companies rejected her, she obtained at job at the Mount Calvary Childcare Center in Harlem.

Chisholm and her husband, Conrad, participated in local politics, helping form the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League. In 1960, she started the Unity Democratic Club, which was instrumental in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters.

She began her political career as she was approaching 40, winning a New York General Assembly seat in 1964. During her tenure in the assembly, she proposed a bill to provide state aid to day care centers and voted to increase per-pupil funding for schools.

In 1968, after finishing her term in the legislature, Chisholm campaigned to represent New York's 12th Congressional District. Using the campaign slogan "Fighting Shirley Chisholm -- Unbought and Unbossed," she won the election and became the first black woman elected to Congress.

Chisholm hired an all-female staff during her first term in Congress and spoke out for civil rights, women's rights, the poor and against the Vietnam War. She was a sought-after public speaker, a co-founder of the National Organization for Women and sought to break the mold society held for women at the time.

"Women in this country must become revolutionaries," she said. "We must refuse to accept the old, traditional roles and stereotypes."

Chisholm announced her candidacy for president in 1972. Although she did not win the Democratic nomination, she received 151 of the delegates' votes.

Chisholm continued to serve in the House of Representatives until her retirement in 1982. She died in Ormond Beach, Fla., on Jan. 1, 2005. She was 80.

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