The first African American congress woman and women in politics

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 30th Jun 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

We will take a look at women in political and the role of Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm.

Simone de Beauvoir

The second wave of feminism

The 1960's were the years of many firsts, we saw how the first equal pay for gender legislation was passed in the 1963, and we also saw how Muriel Siebert became the first lady on Wall Street. Even though women were not equal in the eyes of men, women did strive to make an identity for themselves despite the fact that they were treated as second class citizens. Unfortunately, it did not stop there, there were even divisions among women. Usually when one thinks of the second wave of feminism one thinks of white women, especially white middle class women.

Feminism did not only sweep over America it took the West by storm. Montreal women embraced feminism along wit their American sisters.

My personal brand of feminism embraces all women and all the struggles and successes we have come through. We are the second sex, according to some notable women such as Simone de Beauvoir.

De Beauvoir stated the second wave of feminism in her famous book with the same name. She too was talking about white middle class women. We will get to a discussion about Simone de Beauvoir sometime in the future.

However, after that our experiences are very different, rich, middle class, poor, white, black, latina and native and our experiences are very much tied into our culture.

The black woman experience

A black woman's experience

Rosa Parks showed the dichotomy of being both a woman and a black woman
. Rosa knew what it was like to serve a man and she also knew what it was to serve another woman. Rosa worked for white women as a domestic in her life time as well. Just as women were not equal to men, black women were not treated as equals to white women either. Call it a throwback from the days of slavery and you would be right; but, it also showed class distinction.

Class distinction

Class distinction exists today in the 21st century in Montreal and all over the world. It probably always will, there are very few wealthy individuals who view their servants as an equal.

For the most part, the wealthy may boast about how they treat their servants equally, but you never see their servants invited to a social gathering as a guest. If they are invited at all they are invited to cook, clean, or serve. They are not invited to mingle with the socialites. The world of the servant and the master though updated to include 21st century values did not change, the classes do not mingle; for the most part instead, they still collide.

Social class, gender issues, and civil rights issues, this was what Rosa Parks and African women like her had to face in the past and even today. These distinctions is still prevalent in Montreal.

This is what Muriel Siebert faced as she entered the male dominated world of high finance, and this what the next woman I am about to introduce had to face when she entered the world of politics.

Shirley Chisholm

The First African American Congresswoman

Shirley Ann Chisholm was an African-American woman born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1924. She spent her first few years of life in Brooklyn. Her father was from British Guiana and her mother from Barbados. Shirley was sent to Barbados for her early childhood education where she lived with her grandmother. Shirley would later recount in her biography how all that she had become was a product of that strict quality British style education she received back then.

Shirley Chisholm valued education and she went on to receive her B.A in 1946, at Brooklyn College and then on to a Masters in Education in 1952, from Columbia University. Shirley Chisholm was always a leader at heart and from 1953-1959 she was director of the Hamilton, Madison Child Care Center. Then from 1959 to 1964 she was the educational consultant for the division of childcare at the same center.

In 1964, Shirley began to focus on politics. She ran and was elected to the New York State Legislature and by 1968, Chisholm set her stakes higher, she ran and became the first black woman elected to the Congress.. Chisholm shocked many politicians when she was assigned to agriculture. She asked for a reassignment, something that was just not done in American politics.

For Shirley, protocol was less important than serving her urban constituents, in the district she was assigned to. She did however, manage to get reassigned to the Veteran Affairs Committee.

The First African American Congresswoman

The first African-American Congresswoman political moves continued

Shirley voted for Hale Boggs as House Majority leader over John Conyers an African American. For her support of Boggs, she was offered a position she really wanted. She was now assigned to the Education and Labor Commission. Chisholm retired as the third highest-ranking member of the committee.

Shirley was the first African American congresswoman and it did not come easy for her, she faced much racial and gender discrimination during her career. She did however, experience more challenges because she was a female and not a male, rather than because she was an African American.

Shirley Chisholm's contribution to women's issues

Shirley Chisholm fought as hard as she could to elevate the standards of women in her day and she recognized white women and women of color in the process. Chisholm hired only women for positions that opened up and divided them equally among white and black women.

Election campaigns

Shirley ran for the 1972 presidential election but lost to George McGovern who became the Democratic Presidential candidate. She did have backing of a diverse population including the National Organization of Women founded by Betty Friedan, Rev Pauli Murray, an African American Episcopalian priest, and Shirley Chisholm herself.

Shirley Ann Chisholm was the first woman to ever run for president of the United States. Shirley, Betty Friedan, and Rev Pauli Murray all viewed women as equal partners along side of men and they each in turn advanced the feminist cause.

Life as a politican

Like any politician Chisholm was criticized for some of her actions. She was criticized when she visited her political rival George Wallace after he was shot in 1972. Though political views should never come before being human, however, it seemed to be an issue for some of her critics.

Note: Before individuals are politicians they are human. The politics is their career, their political philosophy, but it is not their entire humanity. To think of a person as simply a politician, objectifies the person and takes away their humanity. As you know this is a woman's issues area. Women have always been objectified; first treated as property by fathers in husbands just a hundred years ago, and treated as sex objects even in this day and age. Politicians are human, they are sons and daughters, husband and wives, fathers and mothers, mentors and coaches, church goers, Rotary club members and so on. They should be treated with kindness when a personal tragedy happens just like anyone else. They should be treated with a modicum of respect even if their personal politics differ from your own. So why would George Wallace be any different?

Montrealers are not that fanatical about political divisions and would not criticize a Canadian politician for visiting another one of an opposite political view who was hurt. In fact Montrealers would call it “paying respect.”

Shirley Chisholm's humanitarianism did not go unnoticed; for George Wallace later rallied enough southern congressmen together to give her the extra votes she needed to put through legislation that would give domestic workers minimum wage.

Secretary of the House of Democratic Caucus

From 1977 to 1981, Chisholm served as the Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus. Chisholm's goals throughout her career in Congress, was to promote and aid inner city residents to improve their lives. She promoted health care, education and social services while opposing the draft and military spending.

Shirley Chisholm's retirement

After she retired from politics, she went back to her roots and so in 1983 – 1987, she taught at Mount Holyoke College in Mass and was named to the Purrington Chair of the College.

Her Writing

Chisholm authored two books. Unbought and Unbiased (1970), is the story of her life and her struggle for civil and gender equality. While The Good Fight (1973), continues her story.

Shirley was gutsy enough to do something that had never been done before, and that was to run for the President of the United States, even though she had already accomplished something that had never been done before, she became the first black congresswomen in the United States. Shirley states in her book, The Good Fight, "In this country everybody is supposed to be able to run for President, but that's never been really true. I ran because most people think the country is not ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate."

Chisholm is the founder and chair of the National Political Congress of Black Women

In 1975, Chisholm was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree by Smith College

In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame

In 2002, professor Molefi Kete Asante, Professor of African American Studies, which he himself founded, listed Shirley Chisholm on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

Women in Canada have enjoyed many first during the 20th many of these firsts, will be discussed at a later date, but for this particular article, please note that these firsts includes:the first Canadian woman Prime Minister, the first woman Deputy Prime Minister, the first woman Speaker of the House, the first women head of the Privy Council, and the First Governor-General (actually all the female Governor-Generals will be talked about in later issues of this women's issues column).

The Conseil des Montréalaises and other municipal parties are concerned with the issue of the representation of women's issues in municipal politics. In 2005, they published the “2005 Elections: Make Way for the Women of Montréal,” which presented its analysis and call for action.” In October of that year they held a debate to discuss, “ women's place in municipal democracy, improving Montréalers' quality of life through housing and affordable public transit, and Montréal's leadership as an employer.” The Conseil des Montréalaises continues its service to give voice and representation to Montreal women.

All photos taken from the public domain

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African Women, Civil Rights Issues, Class Destinction, Female Congresswomen, Feminism, First African American Congresswoman, First Lady Of Wall Street, Gender Issues, Muriel Siebert, Rosa Parks, Second Wave Of Feminism, Shirley Ann Chisholm, Simone De Beauvoir, Social Class, Wall Streat

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author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar Shamarie
2nd Jul 2015 (#)

Excellent post, Carol! I study Shirley Chisholm in college!!!

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