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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Black woman elected to Congress


Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (November 30, 1924 – January 1, 2005) was an American politician, educator, and author.She was a Congresswoman, representing New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to Congress.On January 25, 1972, she became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination (Margaret Chase Smith had previously run for the Republican presidential nomination).She received 152 first-ballot votes at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.

Shirley Anita St. Hill was born in Brooklyn, New York, of immigrant parents. Her father, Charles Christopher St. Hill, was born in British Guiana and arrived in the United States via Antilla, Cuba, on April 10, 1923 aboard the S.S. Munamar in New York City. Her mother, Ruby Seale, was born in Christ Church, Barbados, and arrived in New York City aboard the S.S. Pocone on March 8, 1921.At age three, Chisholm was sent to Barbados to live with her maternal grandmother, Emaline Seale, in Christ Church. She did not return until roughly seven years later when she arrived in New York City on May 19, 1934 aboard the S.S. Narissa. In her 1970 autobiography Unbought and Unbossed, she wrote: "Years later I would know what an important gift my parents had given me by seeing to it that I had my early education in the strict, traditional, British-style schools of Barbados. If I speak and write easily now, that early education is the main reason."


Chisholm is an alumna of Girls High School, she earned her BA from Brooklyn College in 1946 and later earned her MA from Columbia University in elementary education in 1952. She was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.From 1953 to 1959, she was director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center. From 1959 to 1964, she was an educational consultant for the Division of Day Care.


In 1964, Chisholm ran for and was elected to the New York State Legislature. In 1968, she ran as the Democratic candidate for New York's 12th District congressional seat and was elected to the House of Representatives. Defeating Republican candidate James Farmer, Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress. Chisholm joined the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969 as one of its founding members.

Chisholm was married to Conrad Chisholm, a Jamaican private investigator from 1949 to 1977. In 1978, she married Arthur Hardwick Jr., a Buffalo businessman who died in 1986.Shirley had no children and moved to Florida when she retired.She announced her retirement from Congress in 1982. Her seat was won by a fellow Democrat, Major Owens, in 1983.


After retirement she resumed her career in education, teaching politics and women's studies and being named to the Purington Chair at Mount Holyoke College from 1983 to 1987. In 1985 she was a visiting scholar at Spelman College. In 1984 and 1988, she campaigned for Jesse Jackson for the presidential elections. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton nominated her to the ambassadorship to Jamaica, but she could not serve due to poor health. In the same year she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.Chisholm retired to Florida and died on January 1, 2005 in Ormond Beach near Daytona Beach. She was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.

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