shirley chisholm mrs america
Source: FX on Hulu

Uzo Aduba Portrays the Iconic Shirley Chisholm in 'Mrs. America'


Apr. 13 2020, Updated 7:14 p.m. ET

If you’ve heard of the new FX and Hulu show, Mrs. America, you know that the miniseries portrays different kinds of feminists. 

From Betty Friedan, the woman often credited for sparking second-wave feminism, and Gloria Steinem, who became the face of the movement, to Phyllis Schlafly, the ardent anti-feminist who opposed the ERA and other tenants of second-wave feminism, Mrs. America doesn’t shy away from showing all sides of the argument for and against women’s rights.

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One of the many interesting women in the show’s cast is Shirley Chisholm, played to perfection by Uzo Aduba. But while Shirley certainly made historical leaps for women and for black women, her name and legacy is often left out of the history books. 

To help correct that and put Shirley on the map where she deserves to be, here’s a quick guide to this incredible woman’s life and the many amazing feats she achieved in the name of equality.

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shirley chisholm mrs america
Source: FX on Hulu

Shirley Chisholm didn’t think she was destined for politics.

A Brooklyn native, Shirley Chisholm was the first woman to run for the Democratic nomination and the first black presidential candidate of any major party. But growing up, this political powerhouse didn’t think she was suited to a life in politics because of what she termed a “double handicap”: being both black and a woman.

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Luckily, the rampant racial and gender inequalities of everyday life led Shirley to politics, and by the 1960s, she was a part of the League of Women Voters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Urban League, and the Democratic Party club in Brooklyn. 

shirley chisholm mrs america
Source: FX on Hulu
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In 1964, Shirley became the second black person in the New York State Legislature, and in 1968, she won a seat in Congress. During her time as a member of Congress, Shirley introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation that focused on gender and racial inequality, alleviating poverty and ending the Vietnam War. 

In 1977 she also became the first black woman and the second woman to ever serve on the powerful House Rules Committee.

Shirley Chisholm was the first black person and woman to run for president.

In 1972, Shirley mounted a historic bid as the first black candidate for the presidential nomination of a major political party and the first woman to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination. She ran with the phenomenal campaign slogan that would eventually also be the title of her autobiography, Unbought and Unbossed.

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Unfortunately, Shirley’s many, many political accomplishments didn’t shield her from discrimination within the Democratic party, and she wasn’t taken seriously by journalists or fellow politicians. 

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She struggled to get support from her purported comrades, the white feminists, who threw their support behind George McGovern because of his supposed electability. 

It should be noted that McGovern went on to lose to Nixon by a landslide. Shirley spent the rest of her political career giving a voice to the disenfranchised.

Shirley was an icon who changed the American political landscape.

Shirley knew that she didn’t have a realistic chance of actually winning the presidency but she saw her running as being necessary to shift the paradigm of who could be seen as a viable presidential candidate. 

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And it did. Shirley died in 2005, just three years before Barack Obama mounted his historical campaign and became the first black president of the United States, and nine years before Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential nominee of the two major parties.

FX on Hulu’s new miniseries Mrs. America premieres Wednesday, April 15.

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