Quotes for Discussion

In Their Own Words:
Quotes for Discussion


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Activism the Bella Abzug Way
1) “Once we had raised the public consciousness through demonstrative action, then you’d take that consciousness and turn it into political action. That’s my view.” (Bella Abzug p. 70)
2) I hadn’t been a club person. That’s not my constituency. I come from the movements of change, the labor movement, the peace movement, the human rights movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement. Those are the people I bring into campaigns all the time.” (Bella Abzug p. 86)
3) “You’ve got to be creative, experienced, and know how to use the library to ferret out what you need.” (Bella Abzug p. 122)
4) “…if something really important happened nationally or internationally, you would drop what you were doing on a dime to act on what needed to be addressed.” (Martha Baker p. 235) 5) “By taking the far forward position, Bella allowed other to move up and look more moderate.” (Marilyn Marcosson p. 166)
6) “Bella had that capacity to see how the peace movement was intricately tied to the women’s movement, and how the environmental movement would never go anyplace if you didn’t do something about women, and how the political process could be used for all of that.” (Faye Wattleton p. 231)

It’s All Connected: Bella’s Holistic Understanding of Social Justice
7) “I worked with a lot of civil rights activists, and I worked with a lot of women’s rights activists, and there were many people in both movements who kind of sacrificed the other movement…. But the two of them [Bella and Shirley Chisholm] were just constant in their articulation that we cannot deal with these issues separately, they’re inextricably connected, and we’re going to be the stronger if we work in coalition.” (Nadine Hack p. 129)
8) “Bella had that capacity to see how the peace movement was intricately tied to the women’s movement, and how the environmental movement would never go anyplace if you didn’t do something about women, and how the political process could be used for all of that.” (Faye Wattleton p. 231)
9) “The environmental links to breast cancer gave us an entry point that all women can relate to. … Relating things to your own life, your own body is important, and to the struggle of those who are the least fortunate on the planet. Bella was advocating for a deep empathy, a kind of solidarity in organizing, to counter the ‘not in my backyard’ approach.” (Susan Davis p. 271)
10) “They [the Carter Administration] felt we’d overstepped our bounds when talking about the budget. A budget wasn’t supposed to be a women’s issue. She was always walking uphill, bucking the tide …if she wasn’t walking uphill, she’d find the hill that could be walked up. It’s what made her great.” (Marlo Thomas p. 222)

The Bella Abzug Model of Leadership
11) “I was motivated by hope. I still am. Everything that goes down I take seriously. I’m pained by it, but I still have the optimism that it can be changed.” (Bella Abzug p. 53)
12) ”I never opposed the high moralistic ground. It’s a significant part of leadership of any kind. Lacking that, you don’t have leaders. You have phonies.” (Bella Abzug p. 86)
13) “She did it basically by force of personality. If you look at why things are achieved, it is leadership, and that really is personality. She understood very well the character of herself and played to that.” (Edward Kennedy P. 133
14) “It’s one thing to be an activist. But it’s another thing to be willing to take that level of activism to governance…. [Bella Abzug] was willing to take her activism to another level…taking on a whole other burden of responsibility.” (Ron Dellums p. 111)
15) “ As I travel around the world … I am always meeting women who introduce themselves by saying, ‘I’m the Bella Abzug of Russia,’ or I’m the Bella Abzug of Kazakhstan,’ or I’m the Bella Abzug of Uganda….I know what they really mean is that they’ll never give up.”’ (Hillary Clinton p. 284)

Bella’s Feminism
16) “I didn’t speak out of the mother culture. I did speak about our children. I cared about that, but I also spoke about the rights that women had – that women had a right to peace, not only for the sake of their children. It was in some ways a little humiliating to me. A little insulting.” (Bella Abzug p. 63)
17) “[In Women Strike for Peace], we were much more free. You don’t have to go to a board meeting because we make decisions through a telephone tree. So we were able to act on the spot. I have always enjoyed working with women because there a fewer boundaries and impediments and areas of potential conflict. It is always easier to come to a confluence of opinion.” (Bella Abzug p. 69)
18) “I began to realize that my response to her [Bella Abzug] was my problem, not hers. If I was afraid to see Bella being a whole person, anger and all, that was because I was still afraid to be a whole person myself. (Gloria Steinem p. 70)

Women as a Force for Change
19) “…mainstream feminism has evolved into the most broadly based movement for egalitarianism that America possesses… The women’s movement is now a truly national, unified engine of change which could conceivably become the cutting edge of the most important human issues America faces in the next decade.” (London Evening Standard on the Houston Convention p. 213)
20) “So you’d have a strong, clear message coming from a lot of forces working together – women of color, women in the labor community, political women, movement women. I haven’t seen that kind of action from the women’s community in a long time.” (Martha Baker p. 236)

This is Work – This is Life
21) “I wanted to be a lawyer. I was serious about it. I was in love, and decided to get married. I was serious about that. I thought I would like to have children. I was serious about that. So I never felt I couldn’t have it all. I do not feel guilty. I did my best. Maybe it wasn’t the best.” (Bella Abzug p.31)
22) “Intellectually she [Bella] was already there [supporting gay rights], as she used to tell us interminably, ‘Before either you or my daughters fell in love with a woman, I was for gay rights.’ On the other hand, she literally could say to me at a certain time, ‘Both my girls, where did I go wrong?’” (Robin Morgan p. 257)

Bella’s Impact
23) “Nobody is doing the Bella Abzug work.” (Maxine Waters as quoted by June Zeitlin p. 237)
24) “We were lucky. We lived at a critical point in history, and so what we did hit the wave of history just right….I miss Bella. We might have gone in slightly different directions, but she was a vital force. When we were on the same side, which we usually were, she was a very good partner, very alive. It was sort of a love/hate relationship. God you’d think there wasn’t room for two of us, but it turned out there was.” (Betty Friedan p. 143)
25) “She [Bella] opened up the space at the UN. All the processes that are now standard operating procedure with NGO meetings – the different subgroups, caucuses, lobbying for language – people forget it was not always that way. Bella started it for women, but it benefited everybody.” (June Zeitlin p. 267)