Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook

By Jennifer Scanlon | Go to book overview

BELLA ABZUG
(1920-1998)

Mary L. Ertel

Bella Abzug is most often remembered for her outspokenness on women's issues, peace, and civil rights issues, her flamboyant hats, and the three terms she served in the U.S. Congress ( 1970-1976). However, her work as a lawyer, peace activist, civil liberties advocate, and political organizer extends either side of that period of her life. And, from 1990 until her death, she expanded her efforts to an international area, working on environmental issues and efforts to bring social and economic justice to women of developing nations.

Bella Abzug was born in New York City on July 24, 1920, to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Emanuel and Esther Savitsky. Emanuel died when Bella was thirteen; Bella said Kaddish in synagogue every day for a year, a ritual restricted traditionally to males.

Bella Savitsky commuted from the South Bronx to Hunter College in Manhattan, earning a bachelor of arts degree in 1942. At Hunter, she was elected student body president and addressed an assembly with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Refused by Harvard Law School's males-only policy, she was one of six women to attend Columbia University Law School, receiving her law degree and attaining admission to the bar in 1947. Abzug has honorary degrees from Hunter College, Hobart College, and Manhattanville College.

Just prior to graduating from Hunter, Bella Savitsky married Maurice M. Abzug, stockbroker and novelist. They had two daughters, Eve Gail and Isobel Jo. Maurice endorsed Bella's work and activism. Their marriage, described by Gloria Steinem ( 1996) as a partnership of love for politics, dancing, life's pleasures, and each other, lasted forty-two years. Bella wrote of their marriage and how she was coping with her grief over the loss of Maurice in the first issue of the remodeled Ms. in 1990.

Bella Abzug entered private law practice in 1947. She instigated her practice of wearing hats to let judges know she was a practicing woman lawyer, rather

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Significant Contemporary American Feminists: A Biographical Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editorial Board ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Bella Abzug (1920-1998) 1
  • Paula Gunn Allen (1939-) 8
  • Gloria AnzaldÚa (1942-) 14
  • Frances Beale (1940-) 22
  • Rita Mae Brown (1944-) 28
  • Charlotte Bunch (1944-) 36
  • Pat Califia (1954-) 44
  • Judy Chicago (1939-) 51
  • Shirley Chisholm (1924-) 55
  • Esther Ngan-Ling Chow (1943-) 60
  • Pearl Cleage (1948-) 66
  • Kate Clinton (1945- ) 73
  • Mary Daly (1928- ) 79
  • Angela Davis (1944-) 86
  • Shulamith Firestone (1945-) 98
  • Jo Freeman (1945-) 104
  • Betty Friedan (1921-) 111
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-) 118
  • Bell Hooks (1952- ) 125
  • Dolores Huerta (1930-) 133
  • June Jordan (1936-) 138
  • Evelyn Fox Keller (1936-) 145
  • Florynce Kennedy (1916-) 150
  • Audre Lorde (1934-1992) 156
  • Catharine Mackinnon (1946-) 163
  • Olga Madar (1915-1996) 174
  • Wilma Mankiller (1945-) 181
  • Del Martin (1921-) 188
  • Kate Millett (1934- ) 194
  • CherrÍe Moraga (1952- ) 201
  • Robin Morgan (1941-) 206
  • Pauli Murray (1910-1985) 213
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton (1937-) 218
  • Alice Paul (1885-1977) 223
  • Anna Quindlen (1952-) 231
  • Adrienne Rich (1929-) 238
  • Faith Ringgold (1930-) 245
  • Rosemary Ruether (1936-) 251
  • Joanna Russ (1937-) 257
  • Patricia Schroeder (1940-) 264
  • Eleanor Smeal (1939-) 271
  • Barbara Smith (1946-) 279
  • Gloria Steinem (1934-) 283
  • Margo St. James (1937-) 290
  • Alice Walker (1944- ) 297
  • Rebecca Walker (1969-) 305
  • Michele Wallace (1952-) 311
  • Sarah Weddington (1945-) 317
  • Ellen Willis (1941-) 327
  • Selected Bibliography 335
  • Index 341
  • About the Editor and Contributors 355
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