When Bella Abzug died on March 31, 1998, the world's women mourned. Because Bella used her celebrity to improve the lives of women and to protect human rights, peace, and the environment. Because Bella fearlessly challenged and confronted entrenched political interests and patriarchal institutions. Because Bella gave us courage by her example -- speaking out and standing firm. Because Bella never compromised her feminist vision and principles -- even when others were willing to do so in the face of the right wing assault. And Bella was never silent. "Never hesitate to tell the truth. Never give in and never give up," she told us.
Born in the year that women won the right to vote, Bella helped to change the political landscape for women in the United States. A dozen years before the 1992 "Year of the Woman" brought record numbers of women to Congress, Bella, then 50 years old, ran for the House -- and won. Her campaign slogan -- "This woman's place is in the House -- the House of Representatives" -- became an indelible part of the political landscape. And her effectiveness and principled positions set the standard for a later generation of women political leaders.
As a Congresswoman, Bella championed the Equal Rights Amendment, abortion rights, and child care legislation. When the Center for Women Policy Studies conducted ground breaking research on sex discrimination in the granting of credit, Bella used the findings in the fight for passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which made it illegal to deny credit on the basis of sex. She introduced the first civil rights bills for lesbians and gays -- among many other pieces of cutting edge legislation.
Bella was everywhere -- a founder of the National Women's Political Caucus, Women's Strike for Peace, Women U.S.A., and the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). As a founder and leader of global women's caucuses, she helped bring together women's NGOs from around the world to take a stand for women's rights at United Nations conferences.
Bella inspired the Contract with Women of the USA campaign and she was our partner in this work until her final days. Together with Bella and our sisters at WEDO, we designed the Contract as a strategy to bring home the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action to women in this country. Today, the Contract's dozen principles form the basis of the Center's ongoing policy and advocacy work for our network of more than 1,000 women state legislators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Center will carry on Bella's tradition of outspoken multiethnic and multicultural feminism into the 21st century. We count ourselves among the global network of women's rights organizations that will "never give in and never give up," as Bella would say.
Her inspiration, her sisterhood, and her friendship -- these were great gifts that we will always cherish. We carry her legacy with us at the Center through our outspoken advocacy for women's human rights and through our work to implement the principles of the Contract with Women of the USA. When we feel discouraged and disheartened, we will hear her voice in our hearts and be strengthened.
We dedicate this report to the memory of our sister and friend, Bella Abzug.
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|Publication:||Bringing Beijing Home|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2000|