The week of primary elections in New York City seems an apt time to pay tribute to Congresswoman, founding feminist, one-time mayoral hopeful and Anarchist of Style, Bella Abzug. (In fact, the unruly “cast of characters” in current mayoral race is being compared with that of 1977, when Abzug lost the Democratic primary to Ed Koch.)
Although it seems an outrageous leap for a politician to make it to this list, “bellowing Bella” was more than just a cog on the wheel of politics—she was a one-woman life force fearlessly and ferociously inserting her energy and ideas into the public conversation. “She was first on almost everything, on everything that ever mattered,” said Esther Newberg, Abzug’s former administrative assistant.
But it is Abzug’s penchant for hats that earns her place here. Hats became part of her iconography, her identity. In her obituary, The New York Times called her “the hat bobbing before the cameras at marches and rallies.” This penchant came not from a desire to fit in, but, as most things Bella, from a desire to shake up the establishment. “When I got to Congress, they made a big thing of [wearing hats],” she once explained. “So I was watching. Did they want me to wear it or not? They didn’t want me to wear it, so I did.”
Gail Collins on Abzug as a celebrity “in a world of passion and pamphleteering.”
From the Forth World Conference on Women in Beijing, “A Well Known Hat Bobs at Women’s Conference.”
An online biography of Bella.