Honoring Shirley Chisholm

By Casey Farrington, Communications Intern

According to an American University study, 63 percent of girls have never even thought about running for political office. I can’t help but think that if high school history texts featured Shirley Chisholm’s story a little more prominently, the number of girls who have thought about running for office would be a lot higher.

Chisholm was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Barbados. She came back to the US to earn her BA and a Master’s in elementary education. Following about ten years in that field, Chisholm ran for local office, and in 1968 she became the first black woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Then she ran for president.

As both the first African American candidate and the first female candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Chisholm was scoffed at and threatened, but she knew that the scope of her campaign was bigger than just one woman from Brooklyn.

Her historic run expanded what people in the U.S. thought possible.

She opened the door for the 2007 primary season, when both a woman and a black man were serious contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination. She ran the first length of the relay that Barack Obama finally finished in 2008, when he became the first African American to win the White House.

Luckily Chisholm’s place in history became a little more prominent this month, when the USPS memorialized the orange blazer-clad stateswoman on her very own stamp.

And if that weren’t enough, they made this video that describes her impact better than I could hope to:

Clinton and Obama aren’t the only ones beholden to Chisholm’s legacy. NOW is, too. She refused to let what society dictated women should do stand in the way of what needed to be done. In this spirit, Chisholm helped found the National Organization for Women in 1966. Her life provided a new model of femininity and NOW provided a new path to achieve it.

Here’s to more stamps honoring amazing women. The more we remember women like Chisholm, the more women like Chisholm there can be.

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