She was active in the League of Women Voters, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League, and the Brooklyn branch of the NAACP, and served in the New York State Assembly from 1964-68, the first black woman from Brooklyn to serve in the Assembly. In 1968 Shirley Chisholm ran for U.S. representative from the Twelfth District under the slogan, "Unbought and Unbossed" and won the election by 788 votes. She attended the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as a New York state national committeewoman. The first black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, Chisholm voted against the anti-ballistic missile and the SST, co-sponsored a day-care facilities bill with Bella Abzug, supported the Equal Rights Amendment and the right to abortion, and helped to found the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971.
Chisholm entered the presidential campaign in 1972 and earned 152 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach before withdrawing her candidacy. She served in Congress until 1982, continuing to work for equal rights for blacks, women, and other minorities. She was married to Conrad Q. Chisholm in October 1949. Chisholm commented on her 1972 campaign for the presidency: "I ran because someone had to do it first. In this country everyone is supposed to be able to run for President, but that's never really been true. I ran because most people think the country isn't really ready for a black candidate, not ready for a woman candidate. Someday. . . ." ( The Good Fight, Chapter 1, 1973)
When Shirley Chisholm decided to make a historic run for Congress in 1968, her candidacy was greeted, once again, with dismay by black male politicians within her district. Publicly they voiced concern about Chisholm's "independence" from the local Democratic leadership, but privately they objected to her because she was an uppity woman. Chisholm won the primary only to discover that her Republican opponent James Farmer (the former director of the civil rights organization Congress of Racial Equality) planned to make a campaign issue of her gender. His strategy backfired; and Chisholm, who had cleverly responded by organizing the women of her district, beat Farmer by a margin of 2.5 to 1.
Four years later when Chisholm entered the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, she faced an even more uphill battle. First, the Democratic front-runners had more money and larger, professionally trained campaign staffs than did Chisholm. Second, Chisholm's race and gender made her candidacy "suspect" in the eyes of the press, the political elite, and among many voters; few people were willing to see her as a "serious" candidate (a point she laments in her account of the 1972 campaign, The Good Fight). Third, Chisholm's candidacy created a political dilemma for two groups, feminists and the civil rights establishment, predisposed to support her. Should they support her because of her strong congressional record on women's rights and civil rights, or should they use their political clout to extract promises of support for their issues from someone (like George McGovern) who stood a better chance of capturing the Democratic party's nomination In the end, although