Former Congresswoman Chisholm Dies at 80
- Cross post from afrigeneas.........
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so long as the mice get caught (Nigerian proverb)
EDDA R. PITTMAN 5:59 PM Saturday, January 08, 2005
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http://www.cutv.com/pittman.htm (see AND hear her)
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FROM: INTERNET:HCHAPS2@..., INTERNET:HCHAPS2@...
DATE: 1/5/105, 6:50 PM
Re: Former Congresswoman Chisholm Dies at 80
Former Congresswoman Chisholm Dies at 80 MIAMI Jan 3, 2005 =E2=80=94
Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress and an
outspoken advocate for women and minorities during seven te rms in
the House, died Saturday near Daytona Beach, friends said. She was
80. "She was our Moses that opened the Red Sea for us," Robert E.
Williams, president of the NAACP in Flagler County, told The
Associated Press late Sun day. He did not have the details of her
death. Chisholm, who was raised in a predominantly black New York
City neighborhood and was elected to the U.S. House in 1968, was a
riveting speaker who often criticized Congress as being too clubby
and unresponsive. "My greatest political asset, which professional
politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things
one shouldn't always discuss for reasons of political expediency,"
she told voters. She went to Congress the same year Richard Nixon was
elected to the White House and served until two years into Ronald
Reagan tenure as president. "Anyone that came in contact with her,
they had a feeling of a careness, and they felt that she was very
much a part of each individual as she represented her district,"
William Howard, her longtime campaign treasurer, said Sunday .
Newly elected, she was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee,
which she felt was irrelevant to her urban constituency. In an
unheard of move, she demanded reassignment and got switched to the
Veterans Affairs Committee. Not long afterward she voted for Hale
Boggs, who was white, over John Conyers, who was black, for majority
leader. Boggs rewarded her with a place on the prized Education and
Labor Committee and she was its third ranking member when she left.
She ran for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1972.
When rival candidate and ideological opposite George Wallace was
shot, she visited him in the hospital an act that appalled her
followers. "He said, `What are your people going to say?' I said: `I
know what they're going to say. But I wouldn't want what happened to
you to happen to anyone.' He cried and cried," she recalled. And when
she needed support to extend the minimum wage to domestic workers two
years later, it was Wallace who got her the votes from Southern
members of Congress. Pragmatism and power were watchwords. "Women
have learned to flex their political muscles. You got to flex that
muscle to get what you want," she said during her presidential
campaign. When Bella Abzug challenged Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the
1976 Democratic Senate primary, Chisholm caused a stir by backing
"Where was Abzug when I ran for president?" she asked, when
questioned about her choice. In her book, "Unbought and Unbossed,"
she recounted the campaign that brought her to Congress and wrote of
her concerns about that body: "Our representative democracy is not
working because the Congress that is supposed to represent the voters
does not respond to their needs. I believe the chief reason for this
is that it is ruled by a small group of old men."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson called Chisholm a "woman of great courage."
"She was an activist and she never stopped fighting," Jackson said
from Ohio , where he is set to lead a rally on Monday in Columbus.
"She refused to accept the ordinary, and she had high expectations
for herself and all peop le around her." Chisholm's leadership traits
were recognized by her parents early on, she recalled.
Born Shirley St. Hill in New York City on Nov. 30, 1924, she was t he
eldest of four daughters of a Guyanese father and a Barbadian mother.
Her father, an unskilled laborer in a burlap bag factory, and her
mother, a domestic, scrimped to educate their children. At age 3,
Shirley was sent to live on her grandmother's farm in Barbados. Sh e
attended British grammar school and picked up the clipped Caribbean
accent that marked her speech. She moved back to New York when she
was 11 and went on to graduate cum laude from Brooklyn College and
earn a master's degree from Columbia University. She started her
career as director of a day care center, and later served as an
educational consultant with the city's Bureau of Child Welfare. She
became active in local Democratic politics and ran successfully for
the state Assembly in 1964.
She was an Assemblywoman from 1964 to 1968 before besting James
Farmer, the former national chairman of the Congress of Racial
Equality, to gain the House seat. "I am the people's politician," she
said at the time. "If the day should eve r come when the people can't
save me, I'll know I'm finished." When she left 14 years later, she
complained that many of her constituents misunderstood her, that she
was a "pragmatic politician" whose influence was waning in
conservative times. And she said she wanted more time for her family
life. After leaving Congress, Chisholm was named to the Purington
Chair at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., where she
taught for four years. In later years she was a sought-after speaker
on the lecture circuit. "She was a tremendous leader and a voice in
politics when she was in office, as well as when she left office,"
Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields told the AP.
Chisholm was married twice. Her 1949 marriage to Conrad Chisholm
ended in divorce in February, 1977. Later that year she married
Arthur Hardwick, Jr. She had no children. Hardwick died in 1986.
"Whether you agree with her politics or not, she had a moral compass
and was an advocate for the underdog," said Shola Lynch, director of
"Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed", a documentary on her 1972
presidential campaign. Once discussing what her legacy might be, she
commented, "I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts.
That's how I'd like to be remembered."
Democrat congresswoman Shirley Chisholm of New York takes her oath of
office , on in this Jan. 3, 1969 file photo in Washington, D.C., as
the first black woman to serve in the House of Representatives.
Administering the oath in this re-enactment of the swearing-in
cremony is Speaker John McCormack. Chisholm , the first black woman
elected to Congress and an outspoken advocate for women and
minorities during seven terms in the House, died Saturday, Jan. 1 ,
2005, a friend said. She was 80. (AP Photo/File)