Shirley Chisholm

Becoming President of the United States of America has proven to be the ultimate glass ceiling. Hillary Clinton came close to shattering it last year, but Shirley Chisholm was one of the first women to put a crack in it. In 1972 she became the first African-American woman to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for the Presidency.

Shirley was born in Brooklyn, New York and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Brooklyn College. During her time in college she won a number of prizes for her debating skills. She earned a MA in elementary education and went on to become director of a day care center in Manhattan. Her interest in politics began when she began volunteering for political clubs in Brooklyn as well as with the League of Women Voters.

Her political career began officially when she became a member of the New York State Assembly. Here she focused her attention on getting domestic workers unemployment benefit and providing disadvantaged students with assisted learning opportunities to help them get into college. She was elected to Congress in 1968, becoming the first black woman to do so. During her time in Congress she helped to expand the food stamp program.

When she left Congress she became one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. She also helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus. In 1972 she announced her plans to run for President. This was a historic moment as she was not only the first black person to run for the nomination for a major political party but also the first woman. Though¬†not successful in gaining the party‚Äôs nomination, she blazed a trail for women in the future. During her campaign she said the following:

I am not the candidate of Black America, although I am Black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests. I am the candidate of the people.

In 2015 she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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