Shirley Chisholm Quotes

Shirley Chisholm (November 30, 1924 - January 1, 2005)

Shirley Chisolm at a rally
Shirley Chisolm at a rally in 1971 (Photo credit: New York Times Co./Mike Lien/Getty Images). Getty Images

Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to serve in the United States Congress. An early education expert, Shirley Chisholm was elected to the New York Legislature in 1964 and to Congress in 1968, where she was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women's Political Caucus.

She ran for president in 1972, winning 152 delegates in the Democratic primary but losing the party's nomination to George McGovern. Shirley Chisholm served in Congress until 1983. During her congressional career, Shirley Chisholm was noted for her support for women's rights, her advocacy of legislation to benefit those in poverty, and her opposition to the Vietnam war.

Selected Shirley Chisholm Quotations

• I was the first American citizen to be elected to Congress in spite of the double drawbacks of being female and having skin darkened by melanin. When you put it that way, it sounds like a foolish reason for fame. In a just and free society it would be foolish. That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, Black and a woman proves, I think, that our society is not yet either just or free.

• I want history to remember me not just as the first Black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first Black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a Black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.

• Of my two "handicaps" being female put more obstacles in my path than being Black.

• I've always met more discrimination being a woman than being Black.

• My God, what do we want? What does any human being want? Take away an accident of pigmentation of a thin layer of our outer skin and there is no difference between me and anyone else. All we want is for that trivial difference to make no difference.

• Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.

• We Americans have a chance to become someday a nation in which all racial stocks and classes can exist in their own selfhoods, but meet on a basis of respect and equality and live together, socially, economically, and politically.

• In the end, anti-Black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing - anti-humanism.

• My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn't always discuss for reasons of political expediency.

• The United States was said not to be ready to elect a Catholic to the Presidency when Al Smith ran in the 1920's. But Smith's nomination may have helped pave the way for the successful campaign John F. Kennedy waged in 1960. Who can tell? What I hope most is that now there will be others who will feel themselves as capable of running for high political office as any wealthy, good-looking White male.

• At present, our country needs women's idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.

• I am, was, and always will be a catalyst for change.

• There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter. Anyone who takes that role must pay a price.

• One distressing thing is the way men react to women who assert their equality: their ultimate weapon is to call them unfeminine. They think she is anti-male; they even whisper that she's probably a lesbian.

• ... rhetoric never won a revolution yet.

• Prejudice against Blacks is becoming unacceptable although it will take years to eliminate it. But it is doomed because, slowly, White America is beginning to admit that it exists. Prejudice against women is still acceptable. There is very little understanding yet of the immorality involved in double pay scales and the classification of most of the better jobs as "for men only." (1969)

• Tremendous amounts of talent are being lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.

• Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. (attributed to Chisholm; some sources attributed to Marian Wright Edelman)

• I am not anti-White, because I understand that White people, like Black ones, are victims of a racist society. They are products of their time and place.

• The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, "It's a girl."

• When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom profit that loses.

• To label family planning and legal abortion programs "genocide" is male rhetoric, for male ears.

• Which is more like genocide, I have asked some of my Black brothers -- this, the way things are, or the conditions I am fighting for in which the full range of family planning services is available to women of all classes and colors, starting with effective contraception and extending to safe, legal terminations of undesired pregnancies at a price they can afford?

• Women know, and so do many men, that two or three children who are wanted, prepared for, reared amid love and stability, and educated to the limit of their ability will mean more for the future of the Black and brown races from which they come than any number of neglected, hungry, ill-housed and ill-clothed youngsters. Pride in one's race, as will simple humanity, supports this view.

• It is not heroin or cocaine that makes one an addict, it is the need to escape from a harsh reality. There are more television addicts, more baseball and football addicts, more movie addicts, and certainly more alcohol addicts in this country than there are narcotics addicts.


Chisholm, Shirley. The Good Fight. Harper Collins, 1973.

Chisholm, Shirley. Unbought and Unbossed. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1970.

Vaidyanathan, Rajini. "Before Hillary Clinton, there was Shirley Chisholm." BBC, 26 January 2016,

Winslow, Barbara. Shirley Chisholm: Catalyst for Change. Routledge, 2013.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Shirley Chisholm Quotes." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2021, July 31). Shirley Chisholm Quotes. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Shirley Chisholm Quotes." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).