In her 1971 speech before Congress in support of the amendment Bella Abzug argued, "Equal rights for over one half of the population of the United States is unquestionably the most important business before this Congress. An amendment proposing equal rights for women under the law was first before Congress in 1923. Now, after almost 50 years of enduring repeated defeats, the women of the United States demand their due.... Equal treatment under the law, nothing more and nothing less."
Getting to Know Bella Abzug
In the words of Bella herself,"I’ve been described as a tough and noisy woman, a prize fighter, a man-hater, you name it. They call me Battling Bella, Mother Courage, and a Jewish mother with more complaints than Portnoy."Today, we reflect on her role as the Organizer and Founder of Women’s Equality Day which is celebrated every August 26th since 1971.
Bella was born on July 24, 1920 and died in 1998, and during her 77 years she lived her life in service to women, peace, and equality. The causes she worked for speak for themselves, freedom of the press, banning nuclear testing, ending sex discrimination, tirelessly working for civil liberties and urgent social needs such as National Day Care Centers, education, health care, and labor and tenant rights. During her six years in Congress she sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment, co-authored the Water Pollution Act of 1972, the Freedom of Information Act, introduced the first Federal bill to support gay and lesbian civil rights, and also succeeded in pushing through the Equal Credit Act. Bella made a name for herself because she boldly marched to a different drummer. She was indifferent to protocol and proudly wore her wide brimmed hats on the House Floor. In her autobiography she explained, "I began wearing hats as a young lawyer because it helped me to establish my professional identity. Before that, whenever I was at a meeting, someone would ask me to get coffee."