Famous for her trademark hats, Bella Savitsky Abzug (1920-1968) was a pioneer for civil rights. Born in the Bronx, New York to Russian Jewish parents, Abzug studied at Hunter College, The City University of New York. In the 1940s, she attended Columbia University School of Law after Harvard refused her admission because of her gender. Abzug became a powerful voice of women’s leadership.
While working as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, Abzug accepted the personal risk to defend Willie McGee, an African American man problematically accused and executed for raping a white woman in Mississippi. She later went on to defend civil rights activists accused of communism during the McCarthy era.
Abzug served in the U.S House of Representatives from 1971-77, where she continued her activisms against the war in Vietnam and for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. She made Congressional history when she introduced the first gay rights bill in 1975. She established the National Women’s Political Caucus along with Shirley Chisholm, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Betty Freidan, and Gloria Steinem.
Watch: “Bella Abzug” (Progressive Source, 2010)
Bella Abzug, Gender Gap: Bella Abzug’s Guide to Political Power for American Women (1984)
Suzzane Braun Levin and Mary Thom, eds, Bella Abzug: How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Jim Crow and Joe McCarthy, Pissed Off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the Rights of Women and…Shook Up Politics Along the Way (2008)