Mixed Media on paper
11 inches x 14 inches
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York on November 30th, 1924, Shirley Anita Chisholm was Shirley Anita Saint Hill was only five when her and her younger sisters were dispatched to Barbados and lived with their maternal grandmother (as her parents immigrated from the Caribbean themselves). Learning much of her family’s heritage during her stay, she returned to the states for schooling at Girl’s High School in Brooklyn, proudly considering herself to be a Barbadian-American.
Excelling in debates and communication, Saint Hill later attended Brooklyn College and became a member of Delta Sigma Theta as well as an integral part in the Harriet Tubman Society. She fought for the rights of African Americans to be included despite social standards of that time, including the rights to enlist during World War II, African-American History majors to be taught in schools, and women having greater roles in society (I.e. government, politics, state representative roles). She won many prizes as well as praises for her debating skills and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her parents were supportive of civil rights and racial equality, thus, an inspired Saint Hill became very involved with this movement.
Saint Hill met her husband Conrad O. Chisholm later in the 1940s while he was studying to become a private investigator prolific in negligence-based lawsuits. She entered into the world of politics after time spent on working as an educational consultant in Brooklyn and a director of a nursery in Boston (careers she attained after completing her Masters of Arts). Speaking out against the racial discrimination in economics and housing while aiding in the efforts to have Lewis Flagg Jr. voted as the the first black judge in Brooklyn, the discrimination against female members of the Belford Stuyvesant Political League became apparent. Though, it didn’t shake Chisholm’s resolve to stay in politics even after leaving the group.
Chisholm volunteered for political, democratic clubs in Brooklyn such as the League of Women Voters. It also meant her being a part of the committee that would choose who would receive the Brotherhood Award. She remained in several groups that benefited the middle class, civil rights, and women in leadership positions—aiding qualified people of color in high profile, political roles. Chisholm finally ran to be elected for Democratic National Committeewoman in 1968 from New York State. She sought appeal to women voters and her position as the president of the Key Women of America, seeing that the Unity Democratic Club was unsure of giving a woman a high position in politics.
From 1965 to 1968, Chisholm sat from the 175th to the 177th seat in the New York State Legislatures as an honorary member and gained a tenure in Congress (95th and 96th) from 1977 to 1981. Her work included the improvement and further opportunities for those living in inner cities, opposing weapons development during the Vietnam War, and to repeal of Internal Security Act of 1950. In 1972, she announced her presidential bid at the Democratic nomination convention—which made her the first woman to ever run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Her opponent—George Wallace—called for segregation to remain in American society, yet admired Chisholm’s conviction to her policies. When George Wallace was nearly killed in a failed assassination attempt, Chisholm visited him in the hospital. This move caused her to lose voters and ultimately lose her bid as her campaign was underfunded despite the widespread support of the country.
Shirley Anita Chisholm still made a name for herself as the first elected African American woman politician. She continued to lecture on politics, sociology, and toured over 150 college campuses with lessons on women involvement in government. Her accomplishments in pushing for the betterment of healthcare, inner city denizens, and minorities gained the attention of Bill Clinton who wanted to appoint her as the United States Ambassador to Jamaica in 1991. Chisholm had to refuse due to her failing health. In her retirement, she was awarded honorary law degrees from three colleges she lectured at, inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama (after her death)