Women’s History Month – Shirley Chisholm, MacKenzie Scott
Shirley Anita Chisholm
Known for her fearless drive and outspoken nature, Shirley Anita Chisholm was a strong advocate for women’s and minorities’ rights. Born in 1924 in Brooklyn, NY, her post-high school years were spent on the debate team at Brooklyn College, where she would graduate cum laude in 1946. During her time there, she was encouraged by her teachers to pursue a career in politics thanks to her natural debating gifts — though it would take time for her to recognize this calling. After working for a while as a pre-school teacher, Chisholm pursued and attained her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education in 1951.
She would then become a consultant for the New York City Division of Daycare in 1960, which further exposed her to the gender and race inequality of which she was already aware from a young age. Shirley joined organizations such as the NAACP, the League of Women Voters and Brooklyn&rsquo’s Democratic Party Club — attempting to bring equality to those who were underrepresented in society. After becoming the second African American ever to join the New York State Legislature in 1964, Shirley accomplished another victory in 1968 — the title of the first African American woman in Congress.
Her seat allowed her to confront racial and gender inequality, poverty and the continuation of the Vietnam War through the legislation she introduced; over 50 pieces in total throughout her career. She became the first African American woman to serve on the House Rules Committee in 1977, yet another well-deserved victory for “Fighting Shirley,” a name that spoke to her determination and perseverance. Although she retired from Congress in 1983, the mark Chisholm left on the political scene will forever be known. Her desire to be a woman who dared to speak up is a motivation for women everywhere, even decades later.
Though most know her as the ex-wife of Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott has many more layers to her than people might know. To start with, she’s the third-wealthiest woman in the United States, as well as the 21st wealthiest person in the world. However, though her riches certainly do contribute to her fame, MacKenzie Scott is also an author, mother and philanthropist — a woman of multiple gifts and talents. She is still part-owner of Amazon, which she helped her now ex-husband start in 1994, and played a major role in getting the company up and running in its early days.
Born in San Francisco in 1970, Scott wrote her first book at the tender age of six years old. “The Book Worm,” as it was called, was 142 pages long — quite the task for such a young child. Though it was sadly destroyed in a flood, the writing seed was firmly planted in MacKenzie, who would go on to author over 20 books as an adult. After achieving her bachelor’s in English in 1992, Scott worked for novelist Toni Morrison, one of her creative writing professors in college. Afterward, she went on to start Amazon with her then-husband, Jeff Bezos, and have three children, all while working on her first novel.
Now, as one of the richest people in the world, MacKenzie Scott donates millions of dollars to non-profit organizations, including those that serve recovering addicts, provide education assistance for low-income students and challenge gender and racial inequality, just to name a few. Her massive divorce settlement, novel sales and Amazon ownership allow her to spend her wealth in service of those less fortunate, making her a true philanthropist in every sense of the word. MacKenzie Scott is a great example of what women can achieve and how important it is to follow your dreams — no matter how long it may take to get there.