Women of Valor


Five Cents on the Subway

Bella Abzug, 1920 - 1998

"When I was young, it wasn't easy to challenge the traditions of Harvard Law School. When I was ten, I had decided that I wanted to be a lawyer, and at the all-women Walton High School and at Hunter College I had been elected student body president, good training for the law. Everyone told me that if I wanted to be accepted as a lawyer, I should go to the best law school, but when I applied to Harvard, I received a letter stating that it did not admit women.

"In 1942 only 3 percent of the nation's lawyers were women. I was outraged (I've always had a decent sense of outrage), so I turned to my mother. In those days there was no women's movement, so you turned to your mother for help. 'Why do you want to go to Harvard, anyway?' she asked. 'It's far away and you can't afford the carfare. Go to Columbia University. They'll probably give you a scholarship, and it's only five cents to get there on the subway.'

Columbia did give me a scholarship, the subway did cost only five cents in those days, and that's how I became an advocate of low-cost public transportation."

  1. Entire quote from Bella Abzug, Gender Gap: Bella Abzug's Guide to Political Power for American Women, with Mim Kelber (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1984) 158-9.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Bella Abzug - Five Cents on the Subway." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/abzug/five-cents-on-subway>.