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Oral history interview with Bella Abzug, 1996.

Creator: Abzug, Bella S., 1920-1998
Project: Oral history interview with Bella Abzug,
(see all project interviews)
Phys. Desc. :Transcript: 424 pages Sound recording 11 sound cassettes
Location: Columbia Center for Oral History
Full CLIO record >>

Biographical Note

Bella Abzug (née Savitsky) was born in 1920 to Russian Jewish immigrants in the Bronx, where she grew up. She went to an all-girls high school, Walton High School, from 1934 to 1938 and went to Hunter College from 1938 to 1942. She married Martin Abzug in 1942. Bella Abzug was one of the first women to attend Columbia Law School, from which she graduated in 1944. She was a labor lawyer until opening her own practice in the late 1940s, and she worked on many civil rights cases. Abzug was elected to the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1977. She helped co-found the Women's Environment and Development Organization and several other women's advocacy organizations.

Scope and Contents

In this multi-session interview conducted by Ronald J. Grele, Amy Swerdlow, and Mary Marshall Clark from November 1995 to February 1996, Bella Abzug reflects upon living in the Bronx with her family; her relationship with her husband, Martin Abzug; experiences with racism and anti-semitism; and people who influenced her at Walton High School and Hunter College. She goes on to discuss her legal career as a labor lawyer, representing those accused by the House of Un-American Activities Committee during McCarthyism; balancing her life as a working mother of two; her involvement in the Willie McGee case and the Civil Rights Congress; and chauvinism in the legal field. Abzug explains how the Rapp-Coudert Committee affected her; what attracted her to feminism; nuclear disarmament and peace; and her experiences in politics. She recounts her role in the mayoral election of John V. Lindsay, her own campaigns for Congress, and how the media portrayed her during these campaigns.


Access Conditions

Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2018. Reproductions (including electronic audio copies, PDFs, paper copies, or user photographs) are not permitted except with the written permission of the Estate of Bella Abzug until January 1, 2033. Researchers are required to seek the Abzug Estate's permission to cite or quote from this interview until January 1, 2033.

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