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U.S. Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug

STONEWALL Veterans' Association
Former S.V.A. Honorary Female Chairperson

1969 - 1998 S.V.A. Supporter



"Bella! goes to Gay Pride" -- Central Park, N.Y., June 1977
(Shown to BSA's rear left is Harold Holzer with glasses and hair!)
[Photo by Williamson Henderson]

Bella Savitsky Abzug ("Bella!") was born on Hoe Avenue in The Bronx, New York City, on the 24th of July (as in "the 4th of July") 1920 -- the year that American women finally obtained "the right to vote".  This is very ironic!  In fact, it happened  in world history only a month after Bella! was born.  The Bella! word was out:  watch out!  This political irony set the motivational, political and spiritual stage for the multi-rights' activist Bella!  During World War II in June of 1944, Bella! married Martin M. Abzug.  In the early 1950s, they had two daughters, Eve Gayle "E.G." and Isobel Jo "Liz" -- ironically, both are openly and proudly Gay!!

Known as the one and only "Mother of the Gay Community", spanning three monumental decades throughout the 1970s and 1980s and into the 1990s, the STONEWALL Veterans' Association ("S.V.A.") first became involved with Bella! via its founder Williamson Henderson during her successful Manhattan campaign for U.S. Congress in 1970.  Williamson, and his equally young boyfriend John Watts, lived since the "Stonewall Summer of 1969" in a New York City rent-stabilized, luxury high-rise apartment building at Fifth Avenue and East 14th Street in Manhattan in the congressional district for which Bella! was campaigning.  Bella! was also impressed with the boyfriend; however, the boys amicably separated the year Bella! took office.  Williamson kept the apartment for a total of ten-and-a-half years throughout the entire 1970s in the district that Bella! was elected Congressmember.  The district included Greenwich Village, Chelsea, NoHo (North of Houston Street), Clinton and the (increasingly Gay) Upper West Side.  With Williamson actively involved with the 14th Street Block Association, which included blocks on both sides of Fifth Avenue plus Fifth Avenue itself, Williamson soon arranged Bella! as the much-publicized guest speaker.  This happened more than once and spanning several years through a few exciting political contests of Bella!  One of the prominent attendees was boxing champion and Stonewall veteran Emile Griffith, Jr.  

In the Spring of 1970, in addition to Bella's campaign, there was the excitement of the start of a new decade in "Fun City" and the seriousness of the anti-Viet Nam War protests.  Bella! vociferously, consistently and famously spoke out against that war.  There was a lot of enthusiasm about the upcoming first anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.  Bella! and Williamson (who she often referred to as looking like an "angel"), along with a pack of other veterans of the Stonewall Rebellion -- known as the "Stonewall Vetz" -- were mutually supportive with their consensual issues of Gay rights, womens' rights, tenants' rights and civil rights.  

Regarding civil rights, for example, most people do not know this but many years earlier, Bella! literally risked her life over and over and over in her bravely and continuously defending at various judicial levels the wrongly-accused defendant in the notious Negro-hating South case in Mississippi of Willie McGee, a hard-working, married black man who was ludicrously charged with rape by a white, 'married' Southern slut who had him intercoursing her for years.  When married Willie finally refused to continue the regularly-scheduled  performances, she falsely yelled "rape!"  Despite the prior, amazingly successful efforts of Bella! -- who prolonged Willie's life for over five years -- in 1951, Willie was unjustifiably executed ("state-sponsored murder").  The entire horrible experience understandably took a terrible toll on Bella!

The SVA's Jeremiah Newton also campaigned with Bella!  On one occasion with Bella's old Volkswagen campaign "bus" as the transportation of choice, Jeremiah actually had a huge surprise in his "Travels with Bella!"  He reached out to help this just-arrived scarved woman up the bus ladder.  Incredibly, it was the "Funny Girl" herself!  Jeremiah helped the enthusiastic, Brooklyn-born, Academy Award-winner Barbra Streisand up the chrome bus ladder (standard on the Volkswagen {"VW"} buses) to the roof.  Barbra then precariously stood on the VW roof to publicly speak with Bella at a big campaign stop in Greenwich Village.  Ironically, the newly post-Diana Ross Supremes had their first (number one) song out: "Up the Ladder to the Roof".  Also ironic, the lesbian newspaper 'out' at that time was named "The Ladder"!  There was a great supportive profile of Bella! in "The Ladder".      

Barbra Streisand -- at this point, in 1970, already a Grammy award-winning worldwide singer, Tony award-winning Broadway star, Oscar award-winning worldwide actress and Golden Globes award-winning global entertainer -- held her own fund-raiser for 'hell-raiser' Bella! during Gay Pride Month at Barbra's new townhouse off Fifth Avenue (and the Gay parade route) at 49 East 18th Street in Manhattan for the latter's ultimately winning congressional campaign.  Clearly, one of the themes for Bella's historic mission was Barbra's hit song "Don't Rain On My Parade".

Bel