Bella S. Abzug, a longtime feminist leader and former member of Congress died today of complications following heart surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. Harold Holzer, her spokesperson, said she had been in the hospital for 3 1/2 weeks.
Abzug is known for her ardent campaigns for women’s and civil rights, her anti-war sentiments during Vietnam and her eccentric hats. In 1996 Abzug said, “Women will change the nature of power, rather than power changing the nature of women” in the 21st century.
Abzug was elected to Congress in 1970 and served until 1976, when she ran for the U.S. Senate challenging Daniel P. Moynihan.
Abzug, a civil rights attorney and peace activist, led efforts to include women and a feminist perspective in U.S. domestic and international policies, the Democratic Party and the United Nations.
Most recently, Abzug funded and led the Women’s Environmental and Development Organization (WEDO). WEDO coordinated the involvement of non-governmental organizations in working for the inclusion of pro-women’s rights language in the platforms of the United National International Conference for Population and Development (1994, Cairo, Egypt) and the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (1994, Beijing, China).
Bella commented on her lifelong contributions to the women’s movement, noting that she “always had a decent sense of outrage,” and, “My mother said I was a feminist from the day I was born in 1920, the year women got the vote.”
Bella spoke of her reputation and her media nicknames, “Battlin’ Bella” and “Mother Courage,” in her 1972 book, Bella!. “There are those who say I’m impatient, impetuous, uppity, rude, profane, brash and overbearing … Whether I’m any of these things, or all of them, you can decide for yourself. But whatever I am — and this ought to be made very clear at the outset — I am a very serious woman.”
“Bella was a trailblazer for us all,” said Feminist Majority National Programs Director Alice Cohan.
Photo courtesy of Women’s Wire