Remembering Shirley Chisholm

As most of you probably know, Shirley Chisholm–the first black woman elected to Congress–died this past weekend. During her seven terms in the House, she was an outspoken champion of women’s rights.
Check out this piece in the NY Times which shows that while Chisholm didn’t always get the recognition she deserved, back home in Brooklyn she’s being remembered by her allies and opponents alike.
Also take a look at The Online Beat at The Nation, which has not only a great mini-history of Chisholm’s activism, but also includes this amazing quote from her 1972 run for Democratic presidential candidate:
I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States. 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 equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or special interests. I am the candidate of the people.

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  1. VJ
    Posted January 4, 2005 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Since no one has posted here, let me pass along some of my memories of Ms. Chisholm. She was a pathmaking Congresswoman in an age when men ruled the roost to an extent it’s hard to imagine today. I assume since no one has posted on her that most of the folks here who read this will not remember her.
    She was a small hellion of a woman. One of those swell old ‘dames’ of the same era of the late great Cong. Bella Abzug, also of NYC. They would not be silent, their voices were their callings. Cong. Chisholm spoke gracefully with great force and command of her subject. Despite a lifelong pronounced lisp, she was a tremendous public speaker much like, again the late lamented Cong. Barbara Jordan. They were the consciences of the Congress in the 1970′s and early 80′s. Their voices may be silent but I’m certain their words and spirits will live on.
    Cong. Chisholm had no illusions about her quixotic run for the Presidency. But her verve and talent for getting wildly favorable free media due to her constant and tellingly funny quips probably paved the way for another reformist Deomcrat just 3 short years later. Like her, President Jimmy Carter campaigned as a true outsider who would seek to challenge the system in Washington. Both were deeply committed idealistic people with a profound faith in the American public and in their religious beliefs. Carter would get chewed up and spit out by a Washington that openly mocked both his very real faith but also his commanding intelligence and natural honesty. They would do the same to Al Gore some 20 years later, but that’s a different story. [See the on that score].
    Shirley Chisholm saw the writing on the wall and decided to get out of Congress with the incoming barbarians of the Reagan Revolution. She remained a woman of quiet but forceful grace all her life, championing progressive causes well after her retirement. If we had more woman with her courage, wit, intelligence and determination in politics today the world would be an infinitely better place for it.
    She was always one of my favorites. And they really don’t make them like that anymore. Not at least in politics. Her style was of the old school, wide open, engaging, honest, questioning, and always and forever challenging authority. She was a feminist before they had a name for the condition. Somewhere if there is a heaven she’s there with her pals, Bella and Barbara and they’re manning the barricades waiting to storm hell itself. We could well use them now for some of the hell on earth that we have to endure from the hands of all too many of our contemporary politicians.
    I’m happy to provide what memories I could here. Now go and look up some of her and her cohorts speeches! It’s important to pass that along.

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