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Honoring the Legacy of Shirley Chisholm this President’s Day

February 20, 2017

Today the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) celebrates Presidents’ Day by honoring Shirley Chisholm, former Congresswoman and the first Black woman to run for a major political party’s Presidential nomination.

Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress in 1968, and the only new woman to enter Congress in 1969. Congresswoman Chisholm served seven terms, from 1969 to 1983. When she arrived to Congress, Chisholm demonstrated her desire to be an active congressional participant in her very first floor speech. “I have no intention of just sitting quietly and observing,” she said. “I intend to focus attention on the nation’s problems.” [1] Shirley Chisholm paved the way for people of color and women to become a political force, both in Congress and the White House.

Shirley Chisholm quote: if they don't give you a seat at the table bring a folding chair.

Chisholm was a woman ahead of her time. In the 1960’s and 70’s, Chisholm challenged the status quo that perpetuated violence against women. [2] In 1979, she advocated for the Domestic Violence Prevention and Services Act saying, “nothing can be more threatening to the existence of the American family than family violence today.” [3]

Despite her extensive background in education and her request to be put on the Education and Labor Committee, Chisholm was initially placed on the Agriculture Committee. She appealed the decision and took to the House Floor to make her case for reassignment. She eventually made it onto the Education and Labor Committee. “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” said Chisholm. [4]

NNEDV encourages all Members of Congress to follow in Shirley Chisholm’s footsteps by fighting for justice and for services that keep victims and their families safe.