Courtesy of Library of Congress

Bella Abzug 1920-1998

The first Jewish woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, Bella Abzug was a resolute attorney who fought on behalf of labor and tenants' rights, as well as civil rights and liberties. Abzug received her law degree in 1947 and concentrated on trade union and civil rights cases, including that of Willie McGee, a 36-year-old African-American truck driver from Laurel, Mississippi falsely convicted of raping a white woman with whom he had a consensual relationship. During the McCarthy era, she was one of the few lawyers who spoke out against the House Un-American Activities Committee. In 1961, Abzug joined a group of women in forming Women Strike for Peace to protest nuclear proliferation. As a newly elected New York congresswoman in 1971, she famously declared, "This woman's place is in the house - the House of Representatives," and helped found the National Women's Political Caucus. She was also known for her opposition to the United Nation's 1975 "Zionism is Racism" resolution. Among Abzug's congressional accomplishments was the introduction of the Equality Act of 1974, the first federal legislation in support of gay rights.