Leondra Head | Staff Writer
November 5 marks the anniversary of Shirley Chisholm’s election to Congress in 1968. Shirley Chisholm was an American politician and educator. Chisholm, who was a Democrat in New York’s 12th district was the first Black woman elected to Congress. She represented New York’s 12th district for seven terms from 1969 to 1983.
In 1972, Chisholm became the first Black woman from a major political party to run for president. Chisholm’s presidential campaign was not taken seriously by her constituents because of her gender. Chisholm said in an interview in 1995, “When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being Black. Men are men.” In particular, she expressed frustration about the black matriarch saying, “They think I am trying to take power from them. The Black man must step forward, but that doesn’t mean the Black woman must step back.” Her husband, however, was fully supportive of her candidacy and said, “I have no hang-ups about a woman running for president” in an interview with The Washington Post in 1993.
Chisholm is also a founding member of The Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. The Congressional Black Caucus is an organization representing the Black members of the United States Congress. Membership is exclusive to African-Americans. In that same year, she was also a founding member of The National Women’s Political Caucus.
Chisholm once said, “I want history to remember me not just as the first Black woman to be elected to Congress. Not as the first Black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of The United States, but as a Black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.”
Chisholm was a strong supporter of Women’s Rights. All those Chisholm hired in her Congressional office were women, and half of them were African-American. Chisholm said that she faced much more discrimination during her New York legislative career because she was a woman than because of her race. Shirley Chisholm leaves a great legacy and is known around the world for breaking barriers in politics.
Women have certainly made a mark in politics since the 20th century. From former senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to U.S. House of Representative Nancy Pelosi, women have evolved on a national political platform in America.
Dyondra Stephenson, a freshman psychology major from Florida, New York, gave her opinion on women in politics. “Women in politics is a good thing since many see males as the dominant species,” Stephenson said. “Women in politics here on campus is very compelling. With a university that has always had a higher percentage of females, it is interesting that the student body has never elected a woman as SGA President during my time here.”
American women are vastly underrepresented in elected offices across the nation. Women hold less than 20 percent of congressional seats with only five women governors, despite composing a majority of the U.S. population. Only 12 percent of the nation’s largest cities have female mayors. America ranks 98 percent in the world for the percentage of women in its national legislature.