Who: Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress; first woman to seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. president; educator; November 30, 1924-January 1, 2005
Why She Dazzles: She began her career as a nursery school teacher and an education consultant before she ran for office. Shirley’s outspoken personality earned her the nickname “Fighting Shirley,” which she even called herself when she campaigned for office and shouted from a loudspeaker, “This is Fighting Shirley Chisholm!” The strong-willed Congresswoman championed programs for early education and the poor, and she passionately advocated for women and minorities in her seven terms in the U.S House of Representatives. And, NBD, but Shirley was the first African American woman to run for the president of the United States in 1972, and the first woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Mic drop.
Why You Need to Know Her Today: Shirley inspired a generation of women to run for office after her Congressional win in 1968, including women who ran and won for office this year. Aware of gender and racial inequality in politics, she said she was discriminated more for being a woman than for being African American. “At present,” she said, “our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.”
What She Would Say—Because She Said It Then: “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.”
What She Would Wear to the White House Tonight: Strands of pearls in a rainbow of muted colors mixed with jeweled tones made by A New Lady. President Obama posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Shirley 2015, in which he said of her, “There are people in our country’s history who don’t look left or right; they just look straight ahead. Shirley Chisholm was one of those people.”
What She Would Send to Her Friend: A save-the-date card for her constituents to remember to vote. Not only was Shirley the first African American woman elected to Congress, but she was also one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus and of the Congressional Women’s Caucus. The spirited politician famously said, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering, and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
Where She Would Instagram: Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York. Shirley was born and raised in Brooklyn, and ran for the House of Representatives when redistricting efforts created a new congressional district in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community. She advocated for its residents for decades, which is why we can applause New York City for honoring the legendary politician with a new monument to be erected in Prospect Park in 2020.
Tweet This: Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman who ran for U.S. president, created campaign posters with the slogan, “Vote Chisholm 1972, Unbought and Unbossed,” which can be seen in the @NMAAHC #anewlady