Bella Savitzky Abzug (Battling Bella)

(1920–1998) Born in the Bronx, Bella predated women’s right to vote by one month. A tireless and indomitable fighter for justice and peace, equal rights, human dignity, environmental integrity and sustainable development, she advanced human goals and political alliances worldwide.

Known by her colleagues as a “passionate perfectionist,” Bella believed that her idealism and activism grew out of childhood influences and experiences. From her earliest years, she understood the nature of power and the fact that politics is not an isolated, individualist adventure.

At a time when very few women practiced law, Bella graduated from Columbia University’s law school, was admitted to the bar in 1947, took on civil rights cases and was also an activist in the Woman's Movement. Known as "Battling Bella" in the 1960s, she became involved in the antinuclear and peace movements and helped organize the Women Strike for Peace. Carrying on as a feminist advocate, in 1971, she was elected as a Democrat to the 92nd Congress and to the next two succeeding Congresses, serving until 1977. She was the first Jewish woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to co-chair the National Advisory Committee for Women, serving from 1977–79.

After leaving politics, she remained active in the feminist movement, addressed international women's conferences as well as establishing the global organization, Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). As co-creator and president of WEDO, Bella galvanized and helped transform the United Nations agenda regarding women and their concerns for human rights, economic justice, population, development and the environment. WEDO represented the culmination of her lifelong career as public activist and stateswoman. Bio based on the work of Blanche Wiesen Cook and John J-Cat Griffith.

Mount Carmel Cemetery

Section 1, Block C, Map 14, Grave 28

83-45 Cypress Hills Street, Glendale, NY 11385

Queens County

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This program was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

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