Who is she Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm?

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Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 30, 1924. Her father, Charles St. Hill, immigrated from French Guyana (now called Guyana), and her mother, Ruby (Seale), immigrated from Barbados. Charles worked in a factory while Ruby was both a seamstress and a mother, working hard to support the family. However, due to financial difficulties faced by young couples at that time, they decided to send their children back to the Caribbean in hopes of saving money.

At the age of 3, Shirley accompanied her two younger sisters Muriel and Odessa to reside with their grandmother in Barbados for a duration of 7 years.

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After coming back to the U.S., Shirley discovered that she was placed in a class two years ahead of her original level. Nonetheless, she successfully caught up within just one year. As graduation neared, Shirley had options for scholarships from Vassar and Oberilin colleges but decided on Brooklyn College due to its affordability. In the 1940s, while studying psychology, Shirley aspired to become a teacher since it was the only career option available for black women during that time.

In 1946, Shirley achieved an impressive accomplishment by earning a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors while working as a nursery school teacher. While studying at college, she became a member of the esteemed Harriet Tubman society. At Columbia University, she pursued her master’s degree in elementary education and in 1949, she married Conrad Chisholm, who was also studying at Columbia. Shirley’s hard work paid off as she successfully obtained her Master of Arts degree.

In 1960, Shirley played a key role in establishing the Unity Democratic Club, aiming to encourage a greater number of black individuals to pursue candidacy for the 17 Assembly District of New York State. Four years later, Shirley volunteered as a democratic candidate and was selected for the position. Despite anticipating the challenges ahead, she took to speaking with individuals on street corners and in local community venues. Ultimately, Shirley achieved a resounding victory.

Shirley served the assembly for four years and introduced over fifty bills. Two bills were passed. One bill, called the SEEK, aided in college access for children. The other bill established the initial unemployment insurance program for workers.

Before the 1968 congressional elections, a new 12th district was established in New York. Shirley made the decision to compete for the seat, even though she was aware of the tough competition from James Farmer. Eventually, Shirley emerged as the victor with 34,885 votes, while James Farmer secured only 13,777 votes.

Shirley served in the House of Representatives from 1968 to 1983, and she also campaigned for the presidential nomination in 1972. Despite knowing that winning was unlikely, Shirley did not view her campaign as a defeat. In her book “The Good Fight” published in 1973, she conveyed that by daring to run for President as a black woman and genuinely trying, even without expecting victory, she embodied her message: “It can be done.”

After being elected to congress twice, Shirley retired in 1983 due to her second husband Arthur Hardwick’s poor health. She then resumed her career in teaching and served as the Purington Professor at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts for the following four years. Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm is currently alive today.


  1. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History Volume 1 ©1996
  2. www.usbol.com/ctjournal/schisholmbio.html
  3. Chisholm, Shirley.’Leaders from 1960’s Westport Connecticut. Greenwood Press. 1994
  4. www.pathfinder.com/photo/essay/african/cap02.htm
  5. www.worldbook.com/fun/aajourny/html/bh095.html

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Who is she Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm?. (2018, Aug 10). Retrieved from


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