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Rep. Barbara Lee paid a touching tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination

By Kaitlyn Frey
January 20, 2021 04:23 PM
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Rep. Barbara Lee and Shirley Chisholm
Credit: Rep. Barbara Lee/Twitter; Bettmann/Getty

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a U.S. representative for California's 13th Congressional District, honored Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, by wearing a very special accessory on Inauguration Day.

As women across America are celebrating Vice President Kamala Harris' historic achievement as the first female to hold the position by wearing her signature accessory (pearls!), Lee, 74, decided to accessorize with a special necklace passed down from Chisholm's family.

"On this historic day, I'm wearing Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's pearls, given to me by her goddaughter, who said that her godmother, 'would not want it any other way.' Because of Shirley Chisholm, I am. Because of Shirley Chisholm, Vice President Harris is," Lee said on Twitter with a photo of herself donning the pearls with a blazer and butterfly-adorned face mask.

Vice President Harris also paid tribute to Chisholm by choosing to wear the color purple to her historic swearing in at the Capitol on Wednesday. CNN's Abby Phillip pointed out during Inauguration Day coverage that Harris used purple and yellow as colors to launch her presidential campaign as a nod to Chisholm, who became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress in 1969. Chisholm would later run for president in 1972. Phillip noted that Chisholm's boundary-breaking trajectory in politics "inspired" Harris' career.

Thousands of American women are wearing pearls on Wednesday to celebrate Harris' historic achievement. The idea started with the Facebook group, Wear Pearls on Jan 20th, 2021. Its mission is to encourage women to wear pearls, a Harris style staple, as they watch Harris get sworn into office. The group, which was started on Dec. 5, already has over 450,000 members.

While attending Howard University in the '80s, Harris, 56, joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which calls its members "pearls." The necklace style has been a go-to jewelry look for Harris throughout her career, seen wearing pearls at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, when the Homeowners Bill of Rights was signed in 2013 and throughout the 2020 campaign trail, including at the Vice Presidential debate.

Kamala Harris
Credit: Getty

Harris took the oath of office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, making her not only the first woman to become vice president but also the first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent to hold the office. She was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, also a history-maker as the first Latina woman on the highest court in the nation.