Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the oldest of four daughters born to immigrants
from the West Indies, in Brooklyn, NY. Shirley's parents worked in
factories and as housecleaners to support their family. They sent
Shirley and her sisters to live with their grandmother in Barbados
when they were very young so the girls could live a better life on
the island and attend good schools. When Shirley was ten she returned
to Brooklyn to live with her parents. She was an excellent student
and studied hard.
went to Brooklyn College, where she majored in sociology and joined
the debating society. She also worked as a volunteer in the National
Urban League and in the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP), where she talked to people about minority
rights. After graduating from college Shirley earned a master's degree
in child education and worked at a Harlem nursery school. She also
worked hard as a volunteer for the Democratic Party.
Shirley decided to become a candidate for the New York State Assembly.
She won by a landslide. She helped write and pass laws that would
help poor students go to college and helped pass laws that would be
fairer for day care providers. In 1968 Shirley won a seat to the House
of Representatives where she helped pass more laws to help underprivileged
people, especially people who took care of children. In 1972 Shirley
also ran a campaign to be president of the United States and said
she was, "a candidate for the people." She did not become
president, but she was famous for being the first black woman to seek
the nation's highest office.