Extent: 1 box
The Museum of the City of New York Collection on Bella Abzug contains materials related to Bella Abzug’s activist work and legacy between the years of 1991 and 2000.
Bella S. Abzug (July 24, 1920 – March 31, 1998) was a women’s rights, civil rights, and anti-war activist. Born Bella Savitsky to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, she grew up in the Bronx, New York. After earning her B.A. from Hunter College in 1942, she entered Columbia University Law School, where she earned her Bachelor of Laws in 1947.
Abzug became an attorney at a time when few women practiced law, and took on civil rights cases early in her career. She represented Willie McGee, an African American man who was accused of raping a white woman and sentenced to death in Mississippi in 1951. Abzug was also one of the few lawyers willing to defend individuals accused of communist activities by Senator Joseph McCarthy.
In 1970 at the age of 50, Abzug ran for Congress to represent Manhattan’s 19th District with the slogan “This woman’s place is in the House… the House of Representatives!” After being elected and taking the official oath of office, she took a “people’s oath,” administered by Shirley Chisholm on the House steps. On her first day in Congress, she introduced a bill to remove troops from Vietnam. She consistently fought for women’s rights and civil rights, and in 1975 she introduced the first gay rights bill in Congress, the Equality Act. Abzug served three terms, but lost her House seat in 1977 after losing a Senate race to Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
That same year, she presided over the first National Women’s Conference in Houston. In 1978, President Carter appointed her co-chair of the National Advisory Committee for Women, but she was dismissed the following year for criticizing the administration. She then founded Women USA, a grassroots political action organization. She also played major roles in the United Nations International Women’s Conferences and continued to practice law. In 1990, Abzug co-founded the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), a global women’s advocacy organization. She made her final speech before the United Nations on March 16, 1998, and passed away later that month at the age of 77.
Jewish Women’s Archive. “Bella Abzug.” (Viewed on February 22, 2017) https://jwa.org/womenofvalor/abzug
History, Art & Archives United States house of Representatives. “Abzug, Bella Savitsky.” (Viewed on February 22, 2017) http://history.house.gov/People/Detail/8276
Scope and Content
The Museum of the City of New York Collection on Bella Abzug consists of a variety of materials spanning from 1991 to 2000 and relating to Abzug’s activist work, organizations she was associated with, and her legacy. The main formats of material are programs, publications, and reports. Several organizations feature prominently in the collection:
Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)
Founded by Bella Abzug and Mim Kelber in 1991, WEDO is a global advocacy organization headquartered in New York City. WEDO aims to increase the number of women leaders while demanding a just and sustainable future. WEDO is currently working on the broad themes of climate change, biodiversity, peace, conflict, natural resources, disaster risk reduction, sustainable cities and transport, and international finance and trade.
Based at the Jewish Community Center in New York City, Ma’yan works towards equality for women and all people. Ma’yan provides feminist, social justice, and leadership training to teen girls and teaches skills to parents and educators through programs, workshops, and trainings.
1119’s Bread and Roses Cultural Project
Founded in 1979 by Moe Foner as a cultural resource for union members and students in New York City, 1119’s Bread and Roses is a not-for-profit arm of New York’s Health and Human Service Union. Bread and Roses allows workers the chance to display their art.