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Bella Abzug

Battling Bella, Activist and Member of Congress


Eleanor Smeal and Bella Abzug at 1982 Women's Rights Rally in New York City

Eleanor Smeal and Bella Abzug at 1982 Women's Rights Rally in New York City

Diana Walker / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug

Gloria Steinem and a rare hatless Bella Abzug, 1980

Diana Walker / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Bella Abzug

Bella Abzug

Courtesy Library of Congress

Bella Abzug Facts:

Known for: feminism, peace activism, first Jewish Congresswoman (1971-1976), organization founder, instituted Women's Equality Day. Her large hats and fiery personality brought her considerable public attention.

Occupation: member of the US House of Representatives, lawyer, writer, news commentator
Dates: July 24, 1920 - March 31, 1998
Education: Hunter College: B.A., 1942. Columbia University Law School: L.L.B., 1947.
Honors: Editor of Columbia Law Review; National Women's Hall of Fame, 1994
Also known as: Bella Savitsky Abzug; Bella S. Abzug; Battling Bella; Hurricane Bella; Mother Courage

Bella Abzug Biography:

Bella Abzug, a 1947 Columbia Law School graduate admitted to the New York Bar in 1947, was known for her work in the peace movement, for civil liberties, and later in feminism.

In 1970, Bella Abzug was elected to the U.S. Congress from New York. In Congress, she was especially noted for her work for the Equal Rights Amendment, national day care centers, ending sex discrimination, and working mothers' priorities.

Bella Abzug also worked against American involvement in the Vietnam War and against the Selective Service System. She challenged the seniority system, ending up as chair of the House subcommittee on government information and individual rights.

Bella Abzug ran for the Senate in 1976, losing to Daniel P. Moynihan, and in 1977 was defeated in a primary bid for the office of mayor of New York City. In 1978 she again ran for Congress, in a special election.

In 1977-1978 Bella Abzug served as co-chair of the National Advisory Committee on Women. She was fired by President Jimmy Carter, who had originally appointed her, when the committee openly criticized Carter's budget for cutting women's programs.

Bella Abzug returned to private practice as a lawyer until 1980, and served for a time as a television news commentator and magazine columnist.


Parents: Emanuel and Esther Savitsky. Husband: Maurice M. (Martin) Abzug (1944). Children: Eve Gail, Isobel Jo.

Places: New York


Russian-Jewish heritage
Founder, Women Strike for Peace (1961)
Co-founder, National Women's Political Caucus
Co-chair, President's National Advisory Committee for Women, 1978-79
President: Women-USA
Women's Foreign Policy Council
National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year
Commentator, Cable News Network (CNN)
Also: National Organization for Women, National Urban League, American Civil Liberties Union, Hadassah, B'nai B'rith


  • Bella Abzug and Mim Kleber. Gender Gap: Bella Abzug's Guide to Political Power for American Women. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.
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  • Bella Abzug and Mel Ziegler. Bella!: Ms. Abzug Goes to Washington. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1972.
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  • Doris Faber. Bella Abzug. Children's book.
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