Particular Passions

Particular Passions: Talks with Women who Shaped our Times

Bella Abzug – On becoming a lawyer

Bella AbzugLynn GilbertComment

"I decided I was going to be a lawyer when I was eleven years old. I can’t tell you that I had a role model of a woman lawyer because I really didn’t. There were some, a few, but I didn’t really know who they were. I made up my mind that you could fight for social justice more effectively as a lawyer and so I became a lawyer. Since there were only a few women lawyers, I knew that it was going to be very rough. I applied to Harvard Law School because I heard it was the best law school. Harvard wrote back and said they didn’t accept women. I was outraged. I always tell this story because it’s so cute about my mother. I turned to my mother and I said, “Can you believe this?” I always say “I turned to my mother,” because in those days there was no women’s movement so you always turned to your mother. Now I always say, my two daughters have the best of both worlds. They’re able to turn to me and the women’s movement at the same time. But anyway, I turned to my mother and said, “This is an outrage.” (I always had a decent sense of outrage.) My mother said, “What do you want to go to Harvard for? It’s far away. You haven’t got the carfare anyhow. Go to Columbia. It’s near home. They’ll probably give you a scholarship and it only costs five cents on the subway.” And I did that. I got a scholarship and it only cost five cents on the subway. I always say that’s when I became an advocate of low-cost public mass transportation.”

– Bella Abzug, from 'Particular Passions: Talks with Women Who Shaped Our Times', by Lynn Gilbert.

The oral biography of Bella Abzug, an outspoken crusader for peace and human rights who heralded in an era of social change.

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