Women's History Month: Shirley Chisholm broke barriers, paved way for those who followed her

Sandra Bookman Image
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Shirley Chisholm broke barriers, paved way for those who followed her
Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black candidate for a major party's nomination for president.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- As we honor icons throughout Women's History Month, we want to share the powerful work of Brooklyn's own Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who broke barriers and paved the way for thousands of women.

In 1972, she became the first Black candidate for a major party's nomination for president, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Just four years earlier, she'd become the first Black woman elected to Congress.

RELATED | What is Women's History Month, and why do we celebrate it?

Sandra Bookman has more on what it is and why we celebrate it.

Her determination raised the bar for what Black and female politicians could accomplish in American politics, and she was famously quoted as saying, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."

"You've got to give her credit for Kamala Harris," Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said. "Kamala Harris says this too. She wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Shirley Chisholm, that stood up and led the way and said, 'You can do this.'"

Maloney, also of New York, got to work with Chisholm and says she often stops by the her portrait on display on the first floor of the U.S. Capitol just to check in.

From Brooklyn to Capitol Hill, Chisholm's story began in 1924 when she was born Shirley Anita St. Hill.

RELATED: COVID pandemic taking women out of the workforce

As the pandemic has taken an enormous toll on women across the nation, we introduce you to two women -- both mothers -- who are making tough choices.

She graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946 and earned her Master's degree in elementary education from Columbia University.

Chisholm was the director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center and an educational consultant for New York City's Bureau of Child Welfare, and she was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Women's Caucus.

"We are lucky to have her," Maloney said. "She's an inspiration and a trailblazer, and a New Yorker, and a great feminist, and it's Women's History Month."

Chisholm retired from Congress in 1983 to teach. She died in Florida in 2005 at the age of 80.

"I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the 20th century," she once said.

RELATED | 'Sisters of the Skies' aims to close diversity gap in aviation

Learning to fly is very expensive, and getting a private pilot license can run upwards of $10,000. Now, one organization is working to increase the number of women pilots in the United States.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* Follow us on YouTube

* More local news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts Submit a News Tip