- Rep. Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman in Congress
- She was also the first African-American woman to run for president
Well, that's specifically how she wanted to be remembered, but most people remember her as the first African-American woman in Congress as well as the first African-American woman to run for president.
Chisholm was born in 1924 to immigrant parents. She went on to work in education before heading to New York's state legislature in 1964. In 1968, she ran for Congress in New York's 12th District, campaigning on the idea of being "Unbought and Unbossed." With a slogan like that, how can you lose?
She even went on to make that the title of her autobiography. "Fighting Shirley" was the only new woman in the 91st Congress.
She continued to be outspoken upon her arrival in Washington. Her first floor speech spoke out against the Vietnam War, and she complained about her appointment to the Agriculture Committee. Chisholm famously said she represented more veterans than trees -- and being from New York, had a pretty valid point -- which was one of the reasons she was moved to the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
It was during her second term that Chisholm came into the national spotlight. Not only was she a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971, but she also set her sights on the White House. While many people say Chisholm's run for president was done to make a statement, she walked away from the 1972 Democratic National Committee with more than 150 delegates. Chisholm didn't win that race, but she did serve a total of seven terms in Congress. She retired to Florida and died in 2005.
But Chisholm's role as a history-maker wasn't what she wanted to define her life and career:
"When I die, I want to be remembered as a woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be a catalyst of change. I don't want to be remembered as the first black woman who went to Congress. And I don't even want to be remembered as the first woman who happened to be black to make the bid for the presidency. I want to be remembered as a woman who fought for change in the 20th century. That's what I want."