“We are coming down from our pedestal and up from the laundry room. We want an equal share in government and we mean to get it.”
“A woman’s place is in the house. The House of Representatives.”
She was known for her penchant for wearing hats, as well as her no-nonsense approach to life and politics. She was one of the best-known feminists of her time, one of the leaders in what became known as the women’s liberation movement that began in the 1960’s.
Bella Abzug was born in 1920, the year women won their struggle for the right to vote. She spent her life fighting tirelessly for the rights of all women.
In 1971 she joined Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan in founding the National Women’s Political Caucus.
A lawyer and a Democrat, Bella represented a New York district in Congress from 1971 to 1977, the first Jewish woman to serve in that capacity. When she first came into Congress there were only 10 women out of 435 members of the House and 1 out of 100 in the Senate. She recalled that when she first entered Congress, the main focus was on her ever present hat. “They seemed more interested in what was on my head than what was in it.” She sensed they wanted her to take her hat off, so she kept it on as her own personal declaration of independence.
Women in Congress were so rare that they didn’t even have bathroom facilities for them until 1993. Up until that point the women in congress would have to take a long walk and an elevator to another floor and use the public restroom.
President Carter named her co-chair of the National Advisory Committee for women, and she founded Women USA, an organization whose purpose is to educate and register female voters.
Bella continued to fight for equality for women in all areas until her death in March of 1998.
In 2004, her daughter Liz Abzug founded the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute to mentor and train high school and college women to become effective leaders in civic, political and corporate community life.