Up until the late 60’s and early 70’s, women were regarded merely as possessions. They held little voice in politics, in fact they had very little authority even in their own households. Zinn includes Shirley Chisholm because she was women who speaks on behalf of all women. She was a women who was not afraid to stand to the oppressors. She was a women who inspired all women. Chisholm states,
“The Law cannot do it for us. We must do it for ourselves. Women in this country must become revolutionaries. We must refuse to accept the old, the traditional roles and stereotypes… We must replace the old, negative thoughts about our femininity with positive thoughts and positive action…”
Through these words Chisholm was able to inspire a nation of unconfident and insecure women into revolutionary figures. Women began holding meetings, large meetings in each others homes. These “women groups” were instrumental in restructuring the social formation of the nation. Women quickly acquired the confidence to step up and to set things right. Though it wasn’t achieved overnight, Chisholm’s words acted as a catalyst in bringing about equality amongst men and women. The reason Zinn includes this particular example is because it shows how ordinary people, in this case women were able to revolutionize the country by simply building off the words of one another. Moreover it shows how vital women were in transforming this country by eliminating gender inequalities.
Another example Zinn analyses is the the account of Sid Mills. Sid Mills was a Yakima and Cherokee Indian. He was an ordinary man seeking equality like Chisholm. Part of Indians’ lives was fishing, however during the latter 60’s and 70’s much of the government ignored Indians’ rights to fish, and by doing so led to righteous protests from the Indian community. The protests led to the deaths of many innocent Indians. Mills writes,
“My first obligation now lies with the Indian people fighting for the lawful treaty to fish in usual and accustomed water of the Nisqually… and in serving them in this fight in any way possible… What kind of government or society would spend millions of dollars to pick upon our bones, restore our ancestral life patterns, and protect our ancient remains from damage-while at the same time eating upon the flesh of our living People…? We will fight for our rights.”
Mills has a very legitimate point he brings up. Why would the government destroy something they are trying to protect. Not only that, why would they spend millions of dollars doing something that is essentially only provoking the situation and making it worse. Zinn includes this piece because it demonstrates the intellectual capacity of the people, and shows the loopholes in government decision making. The Indians are a part of this country, they are the native inhabitants of this country. They are not to be ridiculed and neglected. Zinn shows how people stand up for their rights, how they never back down. Indians fought because they cared because they were being stripped off their lifestyles. They didn’t fight just to fight back like the government did. They fought because they couldn’t take defeat, because this was who they were. They were people fighting for themselves, and by doing so were able to inspire other Indians in a revolutionary manner to make their presence known. They were the ultimate surprise package, and that is ultimately why Zinn decided to include it.