By Chloe M. Brown
SAN ANTONIO, TX—Who do you think of when you think of the first woman to come close to being president? The answer is probably Hillary Clinton, but there is another lady that came before her. Everyone should know the name – Shirley Chisholm.
This woman is a powerhouse of accomplishments. In 1968, she ran for the U.S House of Representatives. While she wasn’t the first black member of Congress, she was still the first black woman elected to Congress.
Her first assignment was the House Agricultural Committee, at first, she was insulted by the assignment. However, she did not let this slow her down. She found a way to use the surplus of food from her department to help the poor and hungry. This was the beginning of the food stamp program that helped her later develop the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children otherwise known as WIC.
As impressive as that seems, that’s not where Chisholm stops. When she was hiring for her office, all of the hires were women and half of them were black. She became one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Congress in 1971. That same year she also became a founding member of the National Women’s Political Caucus.
If that’s not enough in 1972, she formally announced her presidential bid. Chisholm commented “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the woman’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I am equally proud of that.” She wanted to be more than just the first. She wanted to create a “bloodless revolution” in America.
It’s a shame that Chisholm isn’t a household name as she paved the way for both African-Americans as well as women. She broke through the barrier that women should step back and have no part in the government. She also defied the idea – long before Hillary Clinton – that a woman deserves a place in the White House.
Although Chisholm did not win the election, there is a lesson that can be learned from her candidacy. More people had a
problem with Chisholm being a woman than they did have with her being black, but that was an equal part of the equation. People who learn about Chisholm should also learn about the meaning of never giving up. Despite all the setbacks, she kept moving forward.