Chisholm's Career as a Politician Term Paper

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176). She experienced prejudice early on in her life, and it helped build her belief that black people could make it in a white world, but that integration was extremely necessary. She attended Boston University Law School, and passed the bar in 1959. She returned to Houston to practice law, but turned to politics when her law practice stalled. She volunteered for the Kennedy campaign in 1960, and soon became well-known in Houston political circles.

She ran for the state legislature twice unsuccessfully, but she did not give up, and dedicated her entire life to politics and her constituents. She ran again in 1966, and "Her concerns were those of the people-industrial safety, welfare programs, insurance rates, vocational education, low wages, and voter registration" (Hendrickson, Collins, & Cox, 2004, p. 181). When she won the race, she was the first black woman to serve in the Texas legislature. Her character came out in the legislature, where she tried to fit into the system and get along with the "good old boys" in order to accomplish her goals. She tried to be flexible and approachable from the start, so the other lawmakers would accept her as one of them. Jordan later remembered: '"I just wanted them to be comfortable and not to keep saying: 'Excuse me,' 'Pardon me.' Final acceptance was assured when she became the first woman invited on Senator Charles Wilson's (D-Lufkin) yearly quail hunt" (Hendrickson, Collins, & Cox, 2004, p. 182). Because she was such a good orator, she made use of those skills and spoke out in public often, so she became even more well-known, and was appointed to several important committees in the legislature. Her character supported the "little" people, the poor and underprivileged, and she fought hard for bills to support them in areas like families with dependent children, voting laws, and other areas where the government did not support the poor. She also attempted to be fair to all, and she was never radical or angry, but rather worked hard to accomplish her goals while she represented every one of her constituents. Her peers respected her and her voice, and even praised her in the legislature. "The legislative body also passed a resolution 'praising her ... conduct as a freshman senator, her speaking ability and her concern for others'" (Hendrickson, Collins, & Cox, 2004, p. 183). This indicates how she gained respect from her peers, but also shows that her character was unquestionable and of the highest regard. She also spoke her mind, and would not hesitate to criticize those she did not respect, like Texas Governor John Connelly, who she once called a "son of a bitch" (Hendrickson, Collins, & Cox, 2004, p. 183). She served in the legislature for several terms, and fought for higher wages, workmen's compensation, and other benefits for Texas workers. To show their continued respect, lawmakers made her "Governor for a Day" in 1972, and she was the first black woman to ever hold the honor.

She respected President Johnson for his stand on race relations, and she gained his support as she continued to succeed in the Texas legislature, and then was elected to Congress in 1972 (some said she was greatly helped by the Voting Rights Act) (Clark). "In order to 'work comfortably' and as an equal with the men, she became the first woman to attend the Texas Democratic delegation luncheon, which traditionally met each Wednesday" (Hendrickson, Collins, & Cox, 2004, p. 187). She understood she had to work with her colleagues, and she put this to good advantage. She was a staunch supporter of the Constitution, and she once said, 'My faith in the Constitution is whole. It is complete. It is total,' she declared in clear, mellifluous tones. And others agreed. With this oration, hastily completed but confidently delivered, the young congresswoman earned the respect of a nation" (Hendrickson, Collins, & Cox, 2004, p. 174). She became a leading member of the House of Representatives, but never gave up her core belief in serving the people effectively. She passed away in 1996.


Clarke, M. (2005). Race, partisanship, and the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights, 10(2), 223+.

Gallagher, Julie. "Waging 'The Good Fight': The Political Career of Shirley Chisholm, 1953-1982." The Journal of African-American History 92.3 (2007):…[continue]


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