Battling Bella: The Protest Politics of Bella Abzug

Leandra Ruth Zarnow. Harvard Univ, $35 (420p) ISBN 978-0-674-73748-8
University of Houston professor Zarnow debuts with a dynamic exploration of the political career of New York congresswoman Bella Abzug. Born in the Bronx in 1920 to Jewish immigrants from Russia, Abzug earned a scholarship to Columbia Law School in 1942. As a young lawyer, she convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution of a black Mississippi man convicted of raping a white woman. During the 1960s, she served as the director of Women Strike for Peace, turning the grassroots organization into a “decisive lobbying powerhouse” that, according to Zarnow, helped to push Lyndon Johnson out of the 1968 presidential election. Running as a “leftist urban populist” in the 1970 midterms, Abzug “attempted to connect emerging identity politics with the bread-and-butter issues that mattered most to the Democratic Party’s blue-collar base.” Zarnow writes that Abzug found herself “quickly isolated” in Congress, but managed to pursue her antiwar and feminist agenda through the “savvy” use of procedural measures. After losing back-to-back bids for the Senate and New York City mayor, Abzug became the presiding officer of the 1977 National Women’s Conference. Zarnow sketches a vibrant picture of Abzug’s tumultuous era and draws apt comparisons between her firebrand subject and the latest crop of progressive congresswomen. This well-researched biography will appeal to liberal activists and students of political history. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/11/2019
Release date: 11/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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