Who was Shirley Chisholm? And why was she so important to the fabric of this nation?
Chisholm was an author, politician, and the first Black female senator elected to Congress. She became the first Black person to run for President on a major party ticket and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
In 1969, Chisholm delivered a speech to Congress, “For the Equal Rights Amendment,” that is listed as a top 100 speeches of the 20th century. Just 3 years later, the Equal Rights Amendment was passed.
You can read an excerpt of her speech below:
More than half of the population of the United States is female. But women occupy only 2 percent of the managerial positions. They have not even reached the level of tokenism yet no women sit on the AFL-CIO council or Supreme Court. There have been only two women who have held Cabinet rank, and at present there are none. Only two women now hold ambassadorial rank in the diplomatic corps. In Congress, we are down to one Senator and 10 Representatives.
Considering that there are about 3 1/2 million more women in the United States than men, this situation is outrageous…
It is for this reason that I wish to introduce today a proposal that has been before every Congress for the last 40 years and that sooner or later must become part of the basic law of the land — the equal rights amendment.
Let me note and try to refute two of the commonest arguments that are offered against this amendment. One is that women are already protected under the law and do not need legislation. Existing laws are not adequate to secure equal rights for women. Sufficient proof of this is the concentration of women in lower paying, menial, unrewarding jobs and their incredible scarcity in the upper level jobs. If women are already equal, why is it such an event whenever one happens to be elected to Congress?