Born Shirley St. Hill on November 30,1924 in New York City, Chisholm spent part of her childhood in Barbados with her grandmother and graduated from Brooklyn College in 1946. She began her career as a teacher and earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Columbia University. She served as director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center from 1953 to 1959 and as an educational consultant to New York City’s Bureaus of Child Welfare from 1959 to 1964.
In 1969, Chisholm became the first black congresswoman and began the first of seven terms. After initially being assigned to the House Forestry Committee, she shocked many by demanding reassignment. She was placed on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, eventually graduating to the Education and Labor Committee. She became one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969.
Chisholm became the first African American woman to make a bid to be President of the United States when she ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972. A champion of minority education and employment opportunities throughout her tenure in Congress, Chisholm was also a vocal opponent of the draft. After leaving Congress in 1983, she taught at Mount Holyoke College and was popular on the lecture circuit.
Chisholm was married to Conrad Chisholm from 1949 to 1977. She wed Arthur Hardwick, Jr. in 1986. She is the author of two books, Unbought and Unbossed (1970) and The Good Fight (1973).