On this day – January 3, 1971 – Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-New York) introduced a resolution to the 95th Congress that would withdraw all U.S. troops from Southeast Asia. It was her first full day in the House of Representatives.
Born one month after the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, Abzug was the first Jewish woman ever elected to Congress.
On Abzug’s first day in Congress,
the doorkeeper of the House of Representatives stopped her and told her to remove her floppy, broad-rimmed hat. “Fuck you,” she is said to have replied. On other occasions, Abzug would explain her signature millinery prop by contending that headgear confirmed her professional identity. “Before that,” she recalled, “whenever I was at a meeting, someone would ask me to get coffee.”
Proceeding past the doorkeeper to the floor of the House, the novice lawmaker, one of only nine women in the 91st Congress, introduced a resolution requiring withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. She was a co-founder of Women Strike for Peace and in-and-out-of-office a leader of the anti-war movement, yet Time magazine could not resist dubbing her “Bellacose Abzug.” She was indeed a fighter — for peace, civil rights, civil liberties, economic justice, and environmental protection.
- from Remembering Bella Abzug, by Steven G. Kellman, writing at the San Antonio Current upon the publication of Bella Abzug, an oral history about this extraordinary American feminist.
Read about the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), founded by Abzug, here.
Read about the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, founded by Abzug’s daughter Liz, here.