Woman Making History #1: Bella Abzug

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bella.gifThe first name in the upper left-hand corner of the poster is that of the late, great Bella Abzug. And what a good place to start.

Russian-American Bella Abzug was born in 1920 to immigrant parents in New York. She went to law school at Columbia University and was the editor of the Columbia Law Review at a time when few women practiced law. As a private practicing labor attorney in the 1950s, she took on the McCarthy-driven House Un-American Activities Committee. She also married and had two daughters. In the 1960s, she co-founded the Women Strike for Peace organization, which worked against nuclear testing and the Vietnam War.

In 1970, at the age of 50, Abzug became the United States congresswoman representing Manhattan's 19th Congressional District. She was at that time one of 12 women in the Congress and the first Jewish Congresswoman. She served three terms, with a consistently anti-war, pro-woman, and pro-social justice voting record. Some of her most notable positions included calling an end to the draft, demanding the resignation of Richard Nixon, and pushing for the Civil Rights Act to include protections based on sexual orientation.

In 1976, she gave up her seat to run for Senate. She lost her Senate bid (the Senate at that time was 100% male) and also lost later campaigns for New York City mayor.

Abzug spent the remainder of her life working for feminist, environmental, and social justice causes. She chaired President Carter's National Advisory Committee on Women until she was fired for criticizing Carter administration economic policies, had integral roles in the UN International Women's Conferences, and co-founded several organizations, including Women USA and the Women's Environment and Development Organization.

After several years of ill health, Bella Abzug died in 1998 at the age of 77.

Sources:
Jewish Women's Archive
About: Women's History
New York Times
Library of Congress: From Haven to Home

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