Monday, August 25, 2008


We have had a request for a little history review during this week of the Democratic National Convention. Most of us know the big names like Kennedy, Johnson, Truman, McGovern and others. But let's see if you recall this pioneer in Democratic politics.

Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress, was a passionate and effective advocate for the needs of minorities, women and children and has changed the nation's perception about the capabilities of women and African-Americans.

A New York City educator and child care manager, Chisholm saw the problems of the poor every day, and in the 1950s this led her to run for and win a seat in the New York State Legislature. In 1968 she was elected to Congress from the new 12th District. There she supported improved employment and education programs, expansion of day care, income support and other programs to improve inner city life and opportunity. She advocated for the end of the military draft and reduced defense spending. In 1970 she published her first book, Unbossed and Unbought. She served in Congress until 1982 and in 1972 entered several Democratic presidential primaries, receiving 151 delegate votes for the presidential nomination. Her second book, The Good Fight, was published in 1973.

Thanks to the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Here is an exerpt from here book:

In the 91st Congress, I am a sponsor of the perennial Equal Rights Amendment, which has been before every Congress for the last forty years but has never passed the House. It would outlaw any discrimination on the basis of sex. Men and women would be completely equal before the law. But laws will not solve deep-seated problems overnight. Their use is to provide shelter for those who are most abused, and to begin an evolutionary process by compelling the insensitive majority to reexamine its unconscious attitudes.

The law cannot do the major part of the job of winning equality for women. Women must do it themselves. They must become revolutionaries. Against them is arrayed the weight of centuries of tradition, from St. Paul's "Let women learn in silence" to the American adage, "A woman's place is in the home." Women have been persuaded of their own inferiority; too many of them believe the male fiction that they are emotional, illogical, unstable, inept with mechanical things, and lack leadership ability.

A couple of quotes from Ms. Chisolm:

The United States was said not to be ready to elect a Catholic to the Presidency when Al Smith ran in the 1920's. But Smith's nomination may have helped pave the way for the successful campaign John F. Kennedy waged in 1960. Who can tell? What I hope most is that now there will be others who will feel themselves as capable of running for high political office as any wealthy, good-looking white male.

• At present, our country needs women's idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.

• One distressing thing is the way men react to women who assert their equality: their ultimate weapon is to call them unfeminine. They think she is anti-male; they even whisper that she's probably a lesbian.

Apparently some 36 years later we are still struggling with this concept. By the by, she was intrumental in the ERA (not earned run average) Equal Rights Amendment.


Leonardo Ricardo said...

• At present, our country needs women's idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.

Speechless...leaves me speechless because I think I've known that for a very long time and just now realize how VITALLY important women'ts leadership will be...actually critically important.

Thanks for the memories.

Scott Hankins said...

Thank you, Fred. These are great memories. I really loved her (well, as much as one can, through a tv screen). Do you remember her demeanor? Makes me smile to think on it.

James said...

Wonderful post; I am sorry to say I'm so old I remember the speach live. OY!

We have come so far yet haven't changed much.