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LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
- January 17, 2005
- Vol. 63
- No. 2
1924-2005: Shirley Chisholm
A Political Trailblazer, She Made History as the First Black Woman in Congress
True to that maxim, Chisholm—who died Jan. 1 at her home in Ormond Beach, Fla., at age 80 after a series of strokes—played no small role in rearranging the country's political furniture. With her motto, "Unbought and unbossed," she became a forceful advocate for the disenfranchised during the 14 years she represented her New York City district in Congress. The daughter of a Barbados-born maid and a Guyanese laborer, she helped pass legislation extending unemployment benefits to domestic workers and providing daycare centers for working moms.
In 1972 Chisholm, a Democrat, became the first black woman to make a major-party bid for the Presidency, although she readily acknowledged it was a largely symbolic effort. (George McGovern ultimately won the party's nomination.) "When I die," she said during a recent, rare interview for a documentary scheduled to air Feb. 7 on PBS, "I want to be remembered as a woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be a catalyst for change." Given the gradual evolution of American politics since then—there are now 14 African-American women in Congress—it's fair to say Chisholm, who married twice and had no children, leaves this world with her mission accomplished. "She took the White Males Only sign off Congress and the White House," says feminist Gloria Steinem, who worked with Chisholm. "That's huge."
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