Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm, 1924-2005
Unbought and Unbossed

Hearing the recent tributes and reading about the life of Shirley Chisholm it has occurred to me that few minorities and even fewer women are recognized in American society for the contribution that they have made to our country.

Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress (1969-1983). During her seven terms in the House she 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.

Ms. Chisholm directly affected my life because when I began my professional career in 1962 it was clear that women were treated as second class citizens even by the US government. I was hired at two grades lower that a white male with the same qualifications, the justification was that he had a family. Only after the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 did my career advance and opportunities change in the government. Because of the strong and outspoken support of Shirley Chisholm for the Amendment have women and minorities begun to be treated as equals by the white male power structure.

Where are the Shirley Chisholms of today whose slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed”?

Asked once how she wanted to be remembered, she replied: “I’d like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts.”

That, she most certainly did.