Streams

Ms. Bella Abzug

An Audio Snapshot of the Political Legend

Monday, March 18, 2013 - 11:00 AM

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.

Contributors:

Eleanor Sandra Fischer

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Comments [2]

Marcus from New York City

Bella Abzug was light years ahead of her time in her quest for basic human rights and equalities ! She was the first congress woman to introduce legislation way back in 1975 to make it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in the workplace and fire them solely on the basis of their sexual orientation. And, it passed !This may be in part because she did have a gay daughter. On the night of the "Stonewall Rebellion",in June 1969, Bella lived around the corner on W.10-th Street, and a group of "Angry Gays" ran to her apartment to alert her of the violence and rebellion at the popular gay bar. Soon it grew to a mob and they dragged her out of the house at 2 am clad in nothing more than bloomas and a bra ! They gave her a candle and raced her down Christopher Street to the Stonewall site to demand equality for gays and pressure the lousy cops to lay off them.Later she remembered she thought she was dreaming ! Someone in the crowd found her a coat and covered her up properly on that hot and infamous Summer night. Needless to say, she could offer no solace and violence erupted ! Police cars were overturned and set ablaze, parking meters pulled out of the sidewalk and thrown through the windows of the bar. Malotov cocktails flung inside, where police officers were trapped. Gays had had enough of the abuse, vilification and degradation of the NYPD and the intolerance of society at large. Hence, the birth of the gay rights movement began. We so have Bella Abzug to thank for assisting the GLBT community nearly 45 years ago on that fateful night. She passed away at 77 in 1998 in N.Y.C. of complications due to heart disease and surgery, and will always be remembered !

Nov. 04 2013 09:05 PM
APRIL from MANHATTAN

HERE'S A JOKE ABOUT BELLA ABZUG, WHOM I ADMIRED. SIMULTANEOUSLY INSULTING AND A COMPLIMENT ON HER TOUGHNESS.

"WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BELLA ABZUG AND A BOWLING BALL?"

"YOU COULD EAT A BOWLING BALL IF YOU REALLY HAD TO."

Jun. 24 2013 10:24 AM

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