Passing the Torch
Bella Abzug, 1920 - 1998
Tributes to Abzug included an unprecedented memorial meeting in the UN General Assembly chamber. There Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, pledged to ensure that the doors Bella had opened would, "remain open from this day forth. Bella's legacy shall endure."
At Abzug's funeral, Geraldine Ferraro phrased it another way— "She didn't knock politely on the door. She didn't even push it open or batter it down. She took it off the hinges forever."
Remembrances from both friends and enemies filled the press. Hillary Clinton told of women around the world introducing themselves as, "the Bella Abzug of Russia, or... the Bella Abzug of Uganda," while her husband commented that, "Our society is more just and compassionate," because Abzug, "lived and worked among us.
In Kenya, Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, memorialized Bella as "a pioneer" who, "dared to walk into the unknown..." In the U.S., Gloria Steinem remembered her as not just, "the woman who fought the revolution. She was the woman we want to be after the revolution." And many recalled one often repeated quote: "In a perfectly just republic," wrote John Kenneth Galbraith in 1984, "Bella Abzug would be president."
- Kofi Annan, President Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Wangari Maathai all quoted in WEDO News and Views vol. 11, no 2 "Special Memorial Issue," June 1998, 2-13.
- Steinem and Ferraro quotes from Verena Dobnik, "Bella Abzug Remembered," Associated Press 3 April 1998 <http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/abzug0331.html>.
- John Kenneth Galbraith quoted on book jacket of Bella Abzug, Gender Gap: Bella Abzug's Guide to Political Power for American Women, with Mim Kelber (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1984).