Bella Savitsky Abzug (July 24, 1920 – March 31, 1998) was a American Congresswoman and a leader of the women’s movement. She famously said "This woman’s place is in the House—the House of Representatives" in her successful 1970 campaign to join that body. Later in her career, Bella was often referred to as "Battling Bella", "Mother Courage", and "Hurricane Bella".
When Bella was 13, her father died. According to Jewish tradition, Bella would not be allowed to say Kaddish for her father in synagogue, but this would not stop her. Bella said that she had to do this for her father because he did not have a son that could do it for him. This was an early indication that the rebellious Bella was never going to take "no" for an answer.
Abzug graduated from Walton High School in New York City, and went on to Hunter College of the City University of New York, later earning a law degree from Columbia University. She then went on to do further post-graduate work at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Abzug was admitted to the New York Bar in 1947, and started practicing in New York City at the firm of Pressman, Witt & Cammer, particularly in matters of labor law. She became an attorney in the 1940s, a time when very few women did so, and took on civil rights cases in the South. Abzug was an outspoken advocate of liberal causes, including support for the Equal Rights Amendment, and opposition to the Vietnam War. This placed her on the master list of Nixon political opponents.
Abzug was a supporter of the Zionist movement. In 1975 she led the fight against United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 (revoked in 1991 by resolution 46/86) which "determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination". She supported various international peace movements, which in Israel was led by Shulamit Aloni and others.
In 1976, Abzug ran for the U.S. Senate, but was narrowly defeated in the Democratic primary by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She was also unsuccessful in a bid to be the Mayor of New York City in 1977, and in attempts to return to the U.S. House from the East Side of Manhattan in 1978 and from Westchester County in 1986. Abzug remained active in politics even after ceasing to be a candidate.
James M. Cannon has written that Abzug and several other Democratic members of congress were behind a plot to block Nixon’s nomination of Gerald Ford as Vice President, in the hopes that if Nixon were taken down by the Watergate scandal, the succession of the Presidency would fall to Democratic Speaker of the House Carl Albert.
She was also known in the Congress for being extremely outspoken. This became a problem during her legislative career - a report by Ralph Nader in 1972 estimated that her sponsorship of any bill would cost it 20 to 30 votes.
Never give in, never give up.(Bella Abzug: An Oral History, How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Joe McCarthy, Pissed off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the Rights of Women and Workers, Rallied Against War and for the Planet, and Shook Up Politics Along the Way)(Book review)
Jul 01, 2008; Bella Abzug: An Oral History: How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Joe McCarthy, Pissed off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the...