Ms. Bella Abzug

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Bella Abzug campaign pin.

In March, 1972, reporter Eleanor Fischer interviewed Congresswoman Bella Abzug as she was fighting to hold on to her congressional district in Manhattan encompassing, in part, the Battery, the Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown, Greenwich Village and Chelsea. Representative Abzug talks about this effort to marginalize her. She also calls for pulling U.S. troops out of Vietnam, endorses Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm's campaign for the Presidency and (there may be some debate over it) lays claim to starting the honorific "Ms."

Eleanor S. Fischer's original lead into the interview:

"Redistricting political zones has become an almost yearly ritual with the New York State Legislature. As the City of New York loses population to the suburbs, congressional lines are redrawn to take account of the population movement. Since the legislature is controlled by Republicans, redistricters have an almost uncanny way of making certain that if anyone is to lose a seat, it's a Democrat. The latest representative to fall victim to Albany's geographical whims is Congresswoman Bella Abzug. And anyone who has followed Bella's fledgling career in Washington knows that the lady is not going to take the situation lying down. On the contrary, she's been standing up screaming her head off, perhaps sufficiently so to embarrass the line drawers into saving the district.  I held an informal conversation with Congresswoman Abzug in her New York office the other day. The purpose? To find out how secure she believes her political future to be. But as always, when one talks to Bella, the conversation starts out in a women's lib vein as it did with us when I stumbled over the word "congresswoman" and asked whether she might not prefer being called M.S. or Ms., the feminist designation for women married or unmarried."

The bid to eliminate Bella's Abzug's 19th congressional district through redistricting was successful and she chose to run against William Fitts Ryan, who also represented part of the West Side, in the Democratic primary. Although seriously ill, Ryan defeated Abzug. However, Ryan died before the general election and Abzug defeated his widow, Priscilla, in a party convention to choose the new Democratic nominee. In the general election Priscilla Ryan challenged Abzug on the Liberal Party line but was unsuccessful.   In the general election of 1974, Abzug was easily reelected. For more on Bella Abzug's extraordinary career listen to Sara Fishko's 2008 profile, Bella.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Starkey.