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Battling Bella: The Protest Politics of Bella Abzug by Leandra Zarnow
Please join us for a live Zoom event to mark—albeit belatedly, due to the pandemic—the centennial birthday year of New York legend, feminist icon, and Hunter alumna, Congresswoman Bella Abzug (’42), as we welcome author Leandra Ruth Zarnow to discuss her book, Battling Bella: The Protest Politics of Bella Abzug. The author will be in conversation with longtime Bella colleague and CUNY TV host Ronnie Eldridge and Roosevelt House Director Harold Holzer, who served as Bella’s press secretary.
Long before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, or Hillary Clinton, there was Bella. With a fiery rhetorical style forged in the 1960s antiwar movement, Abzug vigorously promoted gender parity, economic justice, and the need to “bring Congress back to the people.” In so doing, she became one of the original galvanizing forces behind the rise of the Democrats’ women-led “New Politics.”
The 1970 election season saw Abzug, in her trademark broad-brimmed hats, campaigning successfully on the slogan, “This Woman’s Place Is in the House―the House of Representatives.” In Congress, she advanced the feminist agenda in ways big and small, from gaining full access for congresswomen to the House swimming pool to introducing the ERA. Beyond women’s rights, Bella promoted gay rights, privacy rights, and human rights, and pushed legislation relating to urban, environmental, and foreign affairs. She opened still more doors in the late 1970s as the first New York woman to run for the U.S. Senate and Mayor.
Leandra Zarnow’s deeply researched political biography highlights how, as 1960s radicalism brought protest into electoral politics, Abzug drew fire from establishment politicians across the political spectrum―but also inspired generations of women.
Leandra Ruth Zarnow is an associate professor in the Department of History and an affiliated faculty member in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Jewish Studies at the University of Houston. With Stacie Taranto, she co-edited Suffrage at 100: Women in American Politics since 1920, which is currently featured as a series on the She’s History podcast. She is the co-director of a digital humanities project on the 1977 National Women’s Conference, debuting in August 2021, and her commentary on women in politics has appeared in Time, the Washington Post, Axios, the Houston Chronicle, and on NPR, Pacifica Radio, and PBS. Her next book reintroduces Heterodoxy, a Greenwich Village-based secret society and leading incubator of feminism in the early 20th century.
Ronnie Eldridge is the host of Eldridge & Co., a weekly talk show airing on CUNY TV, the television station of the City University of New York. A member of the New York City Council from 1989 to 2001, her career has included service as special assistant to Mayor John V. Lindsay; Director of Community and Government Affairs at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and in Governor Mario Cuomo’s cabinet as the Director of the Division for Women. She was also the Director of Special Projects at MS. Magazine and the Executive Director of the MS. Foundation for Women. In 1972 she managed Abzug’s Congressional re-election campaign.
Harold Holzer is the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, the author, co-author, or editor of 54 books on Lincoln and the Civil War, and a National Humanities Medal laureate. His latest book is The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media from the Founding Fathers to Fake News. He served as press secretary to Bella Abzug in her final term in Congress and in her campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 1976 and Mayor of New York the following year. In November 1977 he served as Ms. Abzug’s press spokesman at the historic National Women’s Conference in Houston.
Liz Abzug, who will greet on behalf of the Abzug family, is founder and Executive Director of the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute (BALI), which is headquartered at Hunter College. She has taught urban studies and women’s leadership studies at Barnard College, and served in government posts at the New York State Urban Development Corp., the Empire State Development Corp., and the NYS Human Rights Enforcement Agency.
This Event Will Be Held Online via Zoom