Bella Abzug Dead at 77

April 01, 1998

Bella Abzug, the pioneering women’s activist and lifelong fighter for social justice, died in a New York hospital yesterday. She died of complications following heart surgery. She was 77-years-old.

In 1970, Bella Abzug won a Congressional seat, becoming the first Jewish woman in Congress. On her first day on Capitol Hill, she called for the US withdrawal from Vietnam and later she became one of the first Congressional representatives to call for the impeachment of President Nixon.

Born Bella Savitsky to Russian immigrant parents in the Bronx, New York, her earliest political skirmishes were defending victims of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s red hunts in the 1950s and fighting Jim Crow. For two years, she was chief counsel on the appeal of Willie McGee, a black Mississippian convicted of raping a white woman. He was executed in 1951.

In recent years, Bella Abzug focuses much of her energies on organizing internationally. She was the co-founder of WEDO — the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, an international women’s advocacy network.

WEDO just put out a major new report called Mapping Progress, which examined some of the gains — and losses — that women worldwide have faced since the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference.


Bella Abzug, former Congressmember and the co-founder of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization or WEDO, an international advocacy network working to achieve social, political, economic, and environmental justice for all through the empowerment of women.