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Sun Dec 1, 2013, 06:07 PM

"Somebody Had to Do It First": The Story of Shirley Chisholm

"Somebody Had to Do It First": The Story of Shirley Chisholm

Sunday, 01 December 2013 00:00
By Eleanor J Bader, Truthout | Book Review

"Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change," by Barbara Winslow, Lives of American Women Series, Westview Press, 192 pages, $2013, $20.00 paperback.

Barbara Winslow's "Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change" profiles the first black - or woman - presidential candidate, a person who prided herself on being "unbossed and unbought."

Historian Barbara Winslow's fascinating portrait of trailblazer Shirley Chisholm (1926-2005) offers activists and organizers an inside look at one woman's political ascent. Although little of the material in the book is new, Winslow's synthesis and attention to race, class and gender dynamics makes it an excellent introduction to a woman who prided herself on being "unbossed and unbought." What's more, Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change acknowledges the limitations of individual achievement and credits "the great social movements of the twentieth century - including some outside the United States" for helping to boost Chisholm's influence and power.

But let's start at the beginning. Shirley St. Hill - Chisholm was her first husband's surname - was born in Brooklyn, New York, to working-class immigrants from Barbados. As the Great Depression worsened, her parents sent her and two sisters back "home," where they were reared on land owned by their grandmother, a domestic servant. Because grandma left at sun-up and did not return for 15 hours, the girls essentially were raised by their teenage aunt. "Grandmother's large house sat on a plot that provided the family's food: Sweet potatoes, yams, corn, tomatoes and root vegetables," Winslow writes. "The waters around the island provided abundant seafood, including the Barbadian staple flying fish." The girls had chores on the farm but also had access to sea, sand and an array of animals. School - one room - lasted eight hours a day and included corporal punishment. Lessons were focused exclusively on academics and religious and moral instruction. Discipline was prized. But being taught by black teachers allowed Chisholm to see people of color as competent and professionally successful, something she might not have witnessed had she remained in New York.

By the time she returned to Brooklyn, however, there was much she needed to adjust to. Not only did the weather fluctuate between brutally hot and brutally cold, the streets, buses and subways were filthy, crowded and noisy; she was terrified. Kids, however, are resilient, and Shirley quickly adapted, excelling in school and declaring that she wanted "to spend her life in the service of education."

She graduated from Brooklyn's Girls' High in 1942. "And even though she was offered scholarships to attend Vassar and Oberlin colleges, her family could not pay for room and board at an out-of-state school. Somewhat reluctantly, she applied to Brooklyn College and was admitted," Winslow writes. Tuition was free, a great boon to countless working-class and poor youths from the five boroughs. And because Chisholm could live at home and get to class by public means, she savored the opportunity. .....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/20168-somebody-had-to-do-it-first-the-story-of-shirley-chisholm

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Reply "Somebody Had to Do It First": The Story of Shirley Chisholm (Original post)
marmar Dec 2013 OP
Mnemosyne Dec 2013 #1

Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Dec 1, 2013, 10:04 PM

1. K&R , because she mattered much. nt

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