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Shirley Chisholm. Announcing her candidacy for presidential nomination, 25 January, 1972. Photograph by Thomas J. O'Halloran. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ppmsc-01264).

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Chisholm, Shirley (30 November 1924–01 January 2005), first African-American congresswoman and educator, was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Charles Christopher St. Hill, a factory worker, and Ruby Seale, a seamstress and domestic worker. She was sent to Barbados for economic reasons at the age of three, where she lived on her maternal grandmother's farm and attended elementary school. Upon returning to New York seven years later she attended local public schools and graduated from Girls' High School in 1942. Despite scholarship offers her family lacked the funds to help her attend a more distant college, so she entered nearby (and tuition-free) Brooklyn College with the intent of becoming a teacher. She became interested in politics while earning her B.A....

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Elliott, Harriet Wiseman (10 July 1884–06 August 1947), educator, political organizer, and government official, was born in Carbondale, Illinois, the daughter of Allan Curtis Elliott, a merchant who extended easy credit to poor coal miners, and Elizabeth Ann White, a staunch supporter of ...

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Edith Green. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112920 ).

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Green, Edith (17 January 1910–21 April 1987), teacher and congresswoman, was born in Trent, South Dakota, the daughter of James Vaughn and Julia Hunt Starrett, schoolteachers. When she was six her family moved to Oregon. She attended public schools and Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. After marrying businessman Arthur N. Green in 1933, she continued to teach and to further her own education. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1939 and took graduate courses at Stanford. Edith and Arthur Green had two sons and were later divorced....

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Anna Arnold Hedgeman. Oil on canvas, 1945, by Betsy Graves Reyneau. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Harmon Foundation.

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Hedgeman, Anna Arnold (05 July 1899–17 January 1990), educator, policy consultant, and political activist, was born Anna Marie Arnold in Marshalltown, Iowa, the daughter and eldest child of William James Arnold II, an entrepreneur, and Marie Ellen Parker Arnold. The Arnolds subsequently moved to Anoka, Minnesota, becoming the only black family in that town. Young Anna graduated from high school in 1918 and went on to attend Hamline University in nearby Saint Paul, becoming the college's first black graduate in 1922....

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Barbara Jordan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-88189).

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Jordan, Barbara (21 February 1936–17 January 1996), lawyer, politician, and university professor, was born Barbara Charline Jordan in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Benjamin M. Jordan and Arlyne Patten Jordan. Her father, a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute, was a warehouse employee until 1949 when he became a minister at Houston's Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, in which his father's family had long been active. Arlyne Jordan also became a frequent speaker at the church. The Jordans were always poor, and for many years Barbara and her two older sisters shared a bed, but their lives improved somewhat after their father became a minister. Barbara attended local segregated public schools and received good grades with little effort. She gave scant thought to her future, beyond forming a vague desire to become a pharmacist, until her senior year at Phillis Wheatley High School, when a black female lawyer spoke at the school's career day assembly. Already a proficient orator who had won several competitions, she decided to put that skill to use as an attorney....

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Lusk, Georgia Lee Witt (12 May 1893–05 January 1971), congresswoman and educator, was born in Carlsbad, Eddy County, New Mexico, the daughter of George Witt, a surveyor and rancher, and Mary Isabel Gilbreath. She graduated from New Mexico State Teachers College (now Western New Mexico University) in 1914 and also attended New Mexico Highlands University and Colorado State Teacher’s College (now the University of Northern Colorado). She taught in southeastern New Mexico for one year before her marriage in 1915 to Dolph Lusk, a rancher and banker. The Lusks lived on a ranch in southeastern New Mexico near the community of Lovington. The couple had two sons, and Georgia was pregnant with their third son when Dolph died in 1919. Newly widowed with three small children, Lusk returned to teaching and at the same time managed the ranch she had inherited from her husband....

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Smith, Hilda Jane Worthington (1888–13 March 1984), educator and government official, was born in New York City, the daughter of a well connected and established family. Smith received her education at private schools and at Bryn Mawr College, where she obtained an M.A. As part of her volunteer fieldwork, she worked with community suffrage groups and factory women at a Philadelphia settlement house....