Women Lead the Way
Celebrating Women's History Month
Shirley Chisholm (November 30, 1924-January 1, 2005) was an early education teacher from Brooklyn who, in 1968, became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress. She went on in 1972 to become the first major party candidate for President of the United States and the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Chisholm was happy to be an outsider in Congress, pursuing the causes she had championed as a community activist, including daycare, education, school lunch programs and a guaranteed minimum annual income for families. She was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus and served her district until 1983.
“Women like Shirley Chisholm, who faced down the hatred with grace and resolve, can be an inspiration to all of us as we knock down barrier after barrier on our way to a world of true equality”
—Yvonne R. Walker
Local 1000 President
Chisholm was inspiring on many levels. With her schoolteacher manners and uncompromising morals, she was defiantly above the often-unsavory machinery and corruption of politics. And, though she was proud to break race and gender barriers, she saw her natural constituency as the whole of the American people.
“We Americans are all fellow countrymen,” Chisholm said. “We are all God’s children, and a bit of each of us is as precious as the will of the most powerful general or corporate millionaire.”
The tide of history is turned when people like Shirley Chisholm step forward and volunteer to lead the way. Putting yourself out there takes courage. It takes determination. It takes leadership.
The leadership that Chisholm displayed in her life continues to resonate today. Yvonne R. Walker, the first woman and the first African American to be elected president of Local 1000, says looking to the example of women like Shirley Chisholm reminds us that once a door is opened for women and people of color, it is our responsibility to ensure the door never shuts for future generations. “Being the first is never easy; the path through sexism and racism is hard and often lonely,” says Walker. “But women like Shirley Chisholm, who faced down the hatred with grace and resolve, can be an inspiration to all of us as we knock down barrier after barrier on our way to a world of true equality.”