Who was she?
Shirley Chisholm was an American politician, educator, and author who became the first African American woman elected to the United States Congress.
What did she do?
The child of Caribbean immigrants, Chisholm worked as an educator and director for daycare centers in Brooklyn and Manhattan. She quickly gained a reputation in her community as an authority on early education and child welfare, and through her leadership experience Chisholm developed an interest in politics. In 1965, she became a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly where she helped to pass legislation that granted unemployment benefits to domestic workers and introduced the Search for Education, Evaluation and Knowledge Program, or SEEK, which provided disadvantaged students a remedial education and the opportunity to enter college.
In 1968, Chisholm was elected to the House of Representatives, becoming the first Black woman to do so. While in office, she worked to expand the food stamps program and was integral in the formation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, which provides food and milk for poor mothers and their children. In 1972, Shirley Chisholm ran for president as the first black major-party candidate and the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Why does she matter?
Chisholm’s legacy is going strong. The programs that she promoted and founded while in office still assist and support poor people today. And although she didn’t win her bid for the presidency, the fact that she ran as a woman and an African American paved the way for more diversity in our government representation.