Women candidates and their campaigns: the latest info, trends and historical context.
Education and Training
Senator Wynona Lipman Chairholder Biographies
- Shirley A. Chisholm
- Gertrude Fester
- Alexis M. Herman
- Patricia J. Williams
- Carol Moseley Braun
- Donna Brazile
- Eleanor Holmes Norton
- Gwen Ifill
- Michele Norris
Shirley A. Chisholm
Shirley A. Chisholm was born in New York and grew up in Barbados and Brooklyn. She earned a B.A. from Brooklyn College and an M.A. and professional diploma in educational supervision from Columbia University. Trained as an educator, she taught in a nursery school, directed a child care center, and served as an educational consultant before running for elective office.
From 1964-68, Chisholm represented a Brooklyn district in the New York State Assembly. She rose to power after challenging the local political machine, earning early in her career the reputation of a maverick and a fighter who was, as she later titled her autobiography, Unbought and Unbossed. In the legislature she served on the education committee and pushed for the rights of the previously underrepresented, championing causes such as unemployment insurance for domestic workers, state aid to day care centers, and the rights of teachers returning to work from maternity leave.
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She demonstrated her mettle immediately by protesting her assignment to the Agriculture Committee, whose work had little to do with her Brooklyn district; she was reassigned to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, still not her top choice but much more relevant to her constituents’ interests. In later years, she won seats on the Education and Labor Committee and the Rules Committee, where she was better able to voice the concerns of her district. Her legislative interests focused on the needs of her community, including education, welfare, housing and employment. Known for her anti-war sentiments, she pushed for all-volunteer armed forces.
Chisholm made history in 1972 when she sought the Democratic nomination for the presidency. She campaigned across the country, ultimately winning 152 delegate votes with her uncompromising anti-war, progressive politics. Her book, The Good Fight, chronicles her campaign.
Congresswoman Chisholm retired in 1982 after seven terms in Congress and became a lecturer and teacher. Shortly after leaving Washington, she established the National Political Congress of Black Women to further the cause of political participation among Black women. She lived in Florida until her death in early 2005.
Congresswoman Chisholm’s papers are archived at the Rutgers University Library.
South African anti-apartheid activist, former member of Parliament, and commissioner of the National Gender Equality Commission of South Africa, Gertrude Fester was a founding member of a number of mass-based women's organizations created to oppose apartheid including the United Women's Congress (1986), the Federation of South African Women (1987), the Women's Alliance (1991), the Women's National Coalition (1992). She is the official historian of the African National Congress Women's League and has published extensively on women's struggle against political repression in South Africa and on women's role in the process of democratization.
Fester's one-woman play, Apartheid's Closet: The Spirit Shall Not Be Caged, which depicts her experiences of imprisonment and solitary confinement under the apartheid regime, has been produced in London, New York, Nicaragua, and at the Fourth World Women's Conference NGO Forum in Huairou, China, as well as in South Africa.
While a Member of Parliament, Fester served on the Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Improvement and Quality of Life and Status of Women. In 2001, she was appointed to the Gender Equality Commission, a constitutional office created to monitor all branches of South African government to ensure compliance with the constitutional commitment to gender equality.
Alexis M. Herman
Vice President Gore swore in Alexis M. Herman, America’s 23rd Secretary of Labor and the first African American ever to lead the Labor Department, on May 1, 1997. President Clinton considered his nomination of Alexis Herman for Labor Secretary an essential part of fulfilling his promises both to help parents succeed at home and at work and to give working people the skills they need to succeed in the new economy.
Secretary Herman took the President's charge to heart. Less than three months after being confirmed by the United States Senate, she surmounted her first major challenge as Secretary of Labor by successfully facilitating negotiations between UPS management and Teamsters union leaders. Those talks ended a ten-day strike that threatened to disrupt the American economy. As Labor Secretary, Herman served as CEO of an organization with a $39 billion annual budget and a workforce of 17,000 across the country. Under her leadership-and for the first time ever-the department received a clean audit opinion on its FY 97, 98 and 99 financial statements.
A recipient of more than a dozen honorary degrees from major colleges and universities around the country, Herman also lends her expertise and talent to a vast array of corporate enterprises and nonprofit organizations. She has served on the boards of directors of Cummins Inc. and Presidential Life Corporation, and as the Chairperson of the Coca-Cola Company’s Employment Diversity Taskforce.
Alexis Herman's achievements in business and as Secretary of Labor are only the latest steps in a lifetime of service to America's working families. Born in Mobile, Alabama and a graduate of Xavier University, she began her career working for Catholic Charities helping young out-of-school men and women find work in the Pascagoula, Mississippi shipyard. At the age of twenty-nine, she joined the Carter Administration as the youngest director of the Women's Bureau in the history of the Labor Department. In the 1980s, she became a successful entrepreneur and labor market expert. In 1993, President Clinton appointed her assistant to the President and director of the White House Public Liaison Office. Four years later, President Clinton again selected Alexis Herman to serve as a valued member of the National Economic Council as the nation’s Secretary of Labor.
Patricia J. Williams
Patricia J. Williams is a graduate of Wellesley College (73) and Harvard Law School (75). She began her career practicing law as a consumer advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Los Angeles. Upon leaving practice, she served on faculties of the University of Wisconsin School of Law, Harvard University Women's Studies Program, and Queen's College. Since 1991, she has been a professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law.
As a parallel career, Professor Williams has pursued journalism. Her column, "Diary of a Mad Law Professor," appears bimonthly in The Nation Magazine. She has authored more than a hundred articles for scholarly journals, popular magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, USA Today, Harvard Law Review, Tikkun, Ms. Magazine, Civilization Magazine, Harpers Bazaar, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The VillageVoice, The London Observer, and The Women’s Review of Books.
She is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Northeastern University and John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has received awards from the National Organization for Women, the American Educational Studies Association and from her alma maters--an Outstanding Alumna Award from Latin School in Boston, an Alumni Achievement Award from Wellesley College, and a Graduate Society Medal from Harvard.
Her book, The Alchemy of Race and Rights was named one of the twenty-five best books of 1991 by the Voice Literary Supplement; one of the "feminist classics of the last twenty years" that "literally changed women's lives" by Ms. Magazine; and one of the ten best non-fiction books of the decade by amazon.com. Other books include The Rooster's Egg (Harvard Press, 1995) and Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1998).
She has been a keynote speaker at conferences hosted by such diverse entities as the Berkshire Women's History Conference, the South African Human Rights Commission, the International Council on Human Rights, the International Law and Society Association, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Professor Williams has appeared on a variety of radio and television shows, including Charlie Rose (PBS), MacNeil-Lehrer (PBS), All Things Considered (NPR), Fresh Air with Terry Gross (NPR), Talk of the Nation (NPR), Crier and Company (CNN), Today (NBC), This Week (ABC) and the Pozner-Donahue Show (NBC). She has served as a guest news commentator for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and for Pacifica Radio. In 1997 she delivered the annual Reith Lectures for the BBC, Radio Four. She has appeared in a number of documentary films, including That Rush! which she wrote and narrated. Directed by British film maker Isaac Julien, this short study of American talk show hosts was featured as part of an installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. She is the author of Skin, a performance piece presented in collaboration with Oliver Lake, the jazz saxophonist.
She has held fellowships at the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth College, the Humanities Research Institute of the University of California at Irvine, the Institute for Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. She is a member of PEN, the international writer's association, a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and was named a MacArthur fellow.
Carol Moseley Braun
Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, was a candidate for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. A native of Chicago, she has served her country as a United States Senator from Illinois (1993-99) and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand (1999-2001), as well as Cook County recorder of deeds, state representative, and assistant United States attorney.
The hallmark of her public service has been dedication to the harmony of the community. An advocate of diversity, she has consistently worked to build an inclusive society. Her extensive and constructive legislative record reflects this commitment to social justice and good government. Since her return in 2001 from her ambassadorial posting, she has taught law and political science at Morris Brown College and DePaul University while maintaining a business law practice and business consultancy in Chicago.
Donna Brazile is founder and managing director of Brazile and Associates, LLC, a political consulting and grassroots organizing firm based in Washington, DC. Brazile, chair of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute (VRI) and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, is a senior political strategist and former campaign manager for Gore-Lieberman 2000 – the first African American to lead a major presidential campaign. Prior to joining the Gore campaign, Brazile was chief of staff and press secretary to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, helping to guide the District's budget and local legislation on Capitol Hill.
Brazile authored Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics (2004, Simon & Schulster). She has been a frequent contributor and political commentator on CNN’s Inside Politics and Crossfire, a columnist for Roll Call, and a contributing writer for Ms. Magazine. In addition to working on political campaigns, Brazile has served as a senior lecturer and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and a fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including Washingtonian Magazine's 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, D.C. and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Award for Political Achievement. A native of New Orleans, Brazile earned her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is now in her eighth term representing the District of Columbia. Named by President Jimmy Carter as the first woman to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she came to Congress as a national figure who had been a civil rights and feminist leader, tenured professor of law, and board member of three Fortune 500 companies. Norton also had been named one of the 100 most important American women in one survey and one of the most powerful women in Washington in another.
A third generation Washingtonian, the Congresswoman continues her lifelong struggle for universal human rights, working for full congressional voting representation and for full democracy for the people of the District of Columbia. She has used her background in national affairs and in law to become a leader in the House in important posts. She has served in the Democratic House leadership group and as the Democratic chair of the Women’s Caucus, and she has been a member of the Committee on the Reorganization of the Congress, appointed by the Speaker when the Democrats controlled the House. Her success in writing bills and getting them enacted has made her one of the most effective legislative leaders in the House. She has the full vote in House committees and serves on the Committee on Homeland Security, the Government Reform Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Her numerous accomplishments for her district also include other historic breakthroughs, among them the achievement of the right to vote on the House floor until the rules were changed in 1995; a two day debate and the first vote on D.C. statehood; and senatorial courtesy in the selection of federal judges, achieved for the first time during the Clinton administration.
Congresswoman Norton, who taught full-time before being elected, continues as a tenured professor of law at Georgetown University, teaching a course there every year. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Antioch College in Ohio, she simultaneously earned her law degree as well as a master’s degree in American Studies from Yale. Yale Law School has awarded her the Citation of Merit as an Outstanding Alumna of Yale Law School, and Yale Graduate School has awarded her the Yale Wilbur Cross Medal as an Outstanding Alumna of the Graduate School, the highest awards conferred by each on alumnae. She is the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees.
Congresswoman Norton has served on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Board of Governors of the D.C. Bar Association, as well as the boards of civil rights and other national organizations.
An accomplished political reporter with experience in both print and broadcast news, Gwen Ifill is moderator and managing editor of Washington Week, the longest-running public affairs program on public television, and senior correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
As managing editor of Washington Week, Ifill selects which stories to examine, chooses each week’s panel of news correspondents, and moderates the Q&A format. On The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Ifill is a familiar presence as both a correspondent and a moderator. She is also frequently asked to moderate debates in national elections, most recently the vice presidential debate during the 2004 election. Prior to joining PBS, she served at NBC News for five years as chief congressional and political correspondent. She also worked for many years as a print journalist reporting for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Evening Sun, and The Boston Herald American.
Read Gwen Ifill's New York Times op-ed about the Rutgers women's basketball team here.
Michele Norris, an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience, hosts NPR’s news magazine All Things Considered, public radio’s longest-running national program, with Robert Siegel and Melissa Block. Norris began hosting on December 9, 2002.
Before coming to NPR, Norris was a correspondent for ABC News. As a contributing correspondent for the “Closer Look” segments on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Norris reported extensively on education, inner city issues, the nation’s drug problem, and poverty. Norris has also reported for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. Her Washington Post series about a six-year-old who lived in a crack house was reprinted in the book Ourselves Among Others, along with essays by Václav Havel, Nelson Mandela, Annie Dillard and Gabriel García Márquez.
Norris has received numerous awards for her work, including the National Association of Black Journalists’ 2006 Salute to Excellence Award, for her coverage of Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, she was honored with Ebony Magazine’s eighth Annual Outstanding Women in Marketing & Communications Award. Norris also earned both an Emmy Award and Peabody Award for her contribution to ABC News’ coverage of 9/11. Norris is also a frequent guest on The Chris Matthews Show on NBC News.
Norris attended the University of Wisconsin, where she majored in electrical engineering, and graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she studied journalism.