shirley chisholm essay

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was born on November 30, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. Her Father, Charles St. Hill was an immigrant from French Guyana (now it is called Guyana) and her mother, Ruby (Seale) was an immigrant from Barbados. Charles was a factory worker and her mother was a seamstress and a mother to help provide for the family. Young couples had a hard time making ends meet, and in hope of saving some of their money, they sent their children back to the Caribbean. Shirley at 3 years old and her 2 younger sisters, Muriel and Odessa went to live with their grandmother in Barbados, where they stayed for 7 years.

When Shirley returned to the U.S she was put into a class two years ahead, but in a year she caught up. When she graduated she was offered scholarships to Vassar and Oberilin colleges, but she enrolled in Brooklyn College because it wasn’t costly.

At college in the 1940s, Shirley majored in psychology and planned to become a teacher since teaching was the only thing profession open to black women.

Shirley graduated with a B.A. with honors in 1946, then taught nursery school while studying for a master’s degree in elementary education at Columbia University. During her college years she joined the Harriet Tubman society. In 1949she married a fellow Columbia student by the name of Conrad Chisholm, and she graduated with her M.A.

In 1960 Shirley helped form the Unity Democratic Club to get more blacks to run for 17 Assembly District of New York State, and in 1964 she offered herself as a democratic candidate. She was chosen as the candidate. Shirley knew it would be hard but went to talk to people at street corners and neighborhood halls. Shirley won by a landslide.

Shirley served the assembly for the next four years. She introduced more than fifty bills and two was passed. One was called the SEEK that helped kids to get to collage. The other was the first unemployment insurance program for workers.

Before the 1968 congressional elections, a new 12th district was created in New York. Shirley decided to run for the seat but she knew it would be hard against James Farmer. Shirley won 34,885 votes to 13,777 votes.

Shirley served the House of Reps. from 1968 to 1983. In 1972 Shirley campaigned for the presidential nomination. Although she knew that she could not win but and consider it not a loss. She said her 1773 book, the Good Fight, “the fact that a black woman dared to run for President seriously, not expecting to win but sincerely trying to, is what it all about. ‘It can be done’

After being twice reelected to congress, Shirley retired in 1983, because her second husband Arthur Hardwick was very ill. She then returned to teaching, served as Purington Professor at Mount Holyoke Collage in Massachusetts for the next four years.

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm is still live today as we speak.


1. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History Volume 1 ©1996
3. Chisholm, Shirley.’Leaders from 1960’s Westport Connecticut. Greenwood Press. 1994

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