Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Hannah FL. Hannah FL Wonders, “Who was Shirley Chisholm?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Hannah FL!

Can you think of any trailblazing politicians? Maybe your mind jumps to Barack Obama or Jeanette Rankin. You might think of Patsy Mink, Kamala Harris, or Marco Rubio. Or perhaps another name pops into your head—that of Shirley Chisholm!

Who was Shirley Chisholm? She was born on November 30, 1924. Her parents were from Guyana and Barbados, but Shirley was born in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up there and also spent part of her childhood in Barbados.

Chisholm always valued education. As a kid, she was a good student. Chisholm graduated high school in 1942 and earned a sociology degree from Brooklyn College in 1946. She also won awards as part of her college debate team. 

Soon, Chisholm became a nursery school teacher and then director of two daycare centers. In 1951, she earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Columbia University. She later worked for New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare.

By the mid-1960s, Chisholm felt called to serve her community in another way. That’s why, in 1968, she ran for election to the U.S. House of Representatives. And she won—Chisholm was the first Black woman to serve in Congress.

Shirley Chisholm represented New York’s 12th congressional district for 14 years. During that time, she had a big impact on the nation and on Congress itself. In 1969, she helped found the Congressional Black Caucus. Two years later, she co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus. Both of these groups still exist today. They serve to help lawmakers work together toward common goals.

Soon, Chisholm set her sights even higher. In 1972, she entered the race to become the Democratic candidate for U.S. president. She was the first Black person to seek nomination from a major political party. Chisholm was also only the second woman to do so.

Chisholm faced a great deal of backlash. Many people didn’t want her to run because of her race and gender. Several women in Congress and even men in the Congressional Black Caucus refused to support her. The Democratic Party didn’t even allow Chisholm to take part in debates on TV.

Still, Chisholm ran a powerful campaign. Her slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed.” This was also the title of a book she wrote in 1970. She gained support from a large number of young people. Many women and members of racial minority groups also supported her. In the end, Chisholm received 10 percent of the vote. This was an impressive accomplishment considering all she was up against.

Chisholm served in Congress until 1983. Afterward, she taught at Mount Holyoke College. She also co-founded the National Political Congress of Black Women. In 1993, Chisholm was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

In 2005, Shirley Chisholm passed away at 80 years old. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom. Today, many remember her as a trailblazer who paved the way for others to follow in her footsteps.

Standards: C3.D2.Civ.14, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.SL.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.L.2 CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.L.1

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