Happy Birthday, Shirley Chisholm!

On 30 November 1924, Shirley Chisholm was born. She was always a personal hero of mine. Her election to the House of Representatives in 1968 somehow made it through all the childish fog and mishegas of that year and into my awareness. When she ran for president in 1972, I was a fan and hoped that she’d win, not quite getting that not only was it impossible for her to win, but that wasn’t the point.

Her run for president really opened my eyes to the inequities of the system. It wasn’t anything she did or said, but it was the way that the people around me reacted to her candidacy that clued me in. It was the idea of an issues campaign and that campaigns could be used for purposes other than winning that clued me in.

It all got me to thinking about the way America worked politically, economically, and socially.


These are some of my most favoritest Shirley Chisholm quotes. If you’ve got some favorites or even a favorite similar hero, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

“When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.”

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

“Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread, and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.”

“In the end anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing: anti-humanism.”

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: “It’s a girl.”

“We must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves.”

“The one thing you’ve got going: your one vote.”

“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”

From Goodread’s Shirley Chisholm Quotes

She could be alive today and commenting on our current situation. We’ve not changed an iota. It’s all been superficial change.

Shirley Chisholm

Her memoir, Unbought and Unbossed, says everything you need to know about her. She fought for what she knew was right and couldn’t be bought off with the offers of money or power. We need her, her fortitude, vision, and morality more now than we ever have needed it before.

Celebrate Chisholm’s life and legacy:

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Image Attribution

“Shirley Chisholm Campaign Poster” by Seattle City Council is marked with CC0 1.0

8 replies »

  1. Those are terrific quotes. I was only vaguely aware of Shirley Chisholm’s political run and did not realize the extent of her wisdom and power—and the timeliness of her messages. Thank you, Jack.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know how I got to be so lucky as to realize that she was running. I was twelve that year. It was one of the first presidential campaigns I was really aware of and followed. I was vaguely aware of ’68, but this one had my attention. Once I saw her campaign, I was just fascinated by it. She was Black. She was a woman. She had no chance of winning. And, she was running for president.

      I didn’t understand until much later how influential she had been. But the real power, I think, is in the timelessness — unfortunately — of her quotes.



    • Howdy Bob!

      I still find it funny that she was part of my political coming of age story. I followed her campaign and just couldn’t figure why she was running. I understood the issues she was campaigning on and agreed with them, but such a long-shot bid just left me scratching my head. I never forgot her, either, even though, you didn’t hear a lot about her after that on the national news.

      Years later, I met the Texas equivalent in Wilhelmina Delco representative in the Texas House. She was another strong voice for equal rights. I wish now, though, that I had done more for Delco, like volunteered on her campaign or something, but, you know, youth.


      Liked by 1 person

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