Bella Savitzky was born in New York City,
on July 24, 1920, a daughter of Russian-Jewish
immigrants. She attended the local public schools
before entering Hunter College in New York City,
where she was elected student body president; she
received her Bachelor of Arts from Hunter in
1942. She then attended Columbia University Law
School on a scholarship, from which she received
her law degree in 1945; she was admitted to the
New York Bar in 1947; when she received her law
degree, only about 2 percent of the lawyers in
the United States were women. She married Martin
Abzug in 1944.
Establishing a law practice in
New York City, Abzug spent about twenty-five
years specializing in labor, tenants' rights, and
civil rights and liberties cases. During the
McCarthy era, she was one of the few attorneys
willing to fight against the House Un-American
In 1961, Abzug helped found the
Women Strike for Peace Movement in response to
U.S. and Soviet nuclear testing. The Movement was
also an important voice against the Vietnam War.
She served as the Movement's chairman until 1971.
In 1968, Abzug was a founder
and member of the National and State New
Democratic Coalition. In 1970, running with the
slogan "This woman's place is in the House
-- the House of Representatives," Abzug
defeated seven-term Democrat Leonard Farbstein in
the Democratic primary on Manhattan's Upper West
Side. She then defeated Republican talk-show host
Barry Farber in the general election to become
the first Jewish woman (and one of only twelve
women) in Congress. Abzug quickly established
herself as an anti-war activist and as a fighter
for social and economic justice. A very outspoken
advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment, she
co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus
with Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm in 1971.
After three terms in the House,
Abzug gave up her seat to run against Daniel Patrick
Moynihan in New York's
Democratic Senate primary for a seat in the then
all-male Senate, but lost by less than one
percent. She was then a candidate in the 1977 New
York City mayoral primary, but was unsuccessful.
In 1978, she was an unsuccessful candidate for
election to the House in a special election.
In 1977, Abzug presided over
the first National Women's Conference in Houston.
She then headed President
Jimmy Carter's National
Advisory Committee on Women until she was fired
for criticizing the administration's economic
policies (1978-1979). In response, she founded
Women USA, a political action organization. All
the while she continued to practice law, publish
articles, lecture on current issues, and work as
a daily news commentator for the Cable New
Network, Gender Gap. In 1984, she co-wrote a book
with Mim Kelber, Bella Abzug's Guide to
Political Power for American Women.
In 1990, Abzug co-founded the
Women's Environment and Development Organization,
an international activist and advocacy network.
Abzug gave her last public
speech in March 1998, before the United Nations.
She died in New York City on March 31, 1998.
Biographical Directory of the United
States Congress bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=A000018
Jewish Women's Archive http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/abzug
New York City
Questions or comments about