Just for You: Grass Roots Organizers and Activists

  1. Text References
    1. The personal is political – Raising a Family; living the commitment.  1949-1984, pp. 35-44
    2. Women Strike for Peace – Feminist action strategies for organizing. 1961-67,  pp.59 -71
    3. Thinking nationally, working locally – Organizing NYC’s anti-war movement for change. 1966-70, pp.75-83
    4. The National Women’s Political Caucus and a women’s agenda for the 1972 presidential campaign. 1972, pp136- 147
    5. Organizing a conference, neutralizing the opposition, building a movement – the National Women’s Conference in Houston. 1977, pp. 196-214
    6. The International Women’s Movement –Bella Abzug as an international activist who changed the UN and became a model to women around the world. 1990-98, pp.263-279

  2. Thought Questions (Download pdf)
    1. What were the various forms of activism Bella Abzug used and their impact, looking at local, national, and international modes of action and strategies?
    2. What is success in activism?  Where was Bella Abzug successful, and how did she and her colleagues succeed?  What were their successful strategies?
    3. How did Bella Abzug’s personality help her? Hinder her? And how did she adjust for it?
    4. Exerting power – What are the differences between working within the system and pushing from outside the system?  What are the different strategies and skills you need?  Where are they are the same, and how can we create synergy between the two types of action.
    5. What kinds of alliances did Bella Abzug build in order to achieve her goals?  How did she create working relationships with a range of people?
    6. Did the fact that Bella Abzug addressed so many social justice issues make her more effective as an activist?  Did it limit her?
    7. What in our society today would change the way a modern day Bella Abzug operates, and how would she have to adjust to be effective?
      1. Rise of the right wing and fundamentalism of all sorts
      2. Technology
      3. Changing demographics, and increasing multiplication and fragmentation of identity

  3. In Their Own Words: Quotes for Discussion (Download pdf)
    1. “Once we had raised the public consciousness through demonstrative action, then you’d take that consciousness and turn it into political action. That’s my view.” (Bella Abzug p. 70)
    2. “…if something really important happened nationally or internationally, you would drop what you were doing on a dime to act on what needed to be addressed.”  (Martha Baker p. 235)
    3. “I worked with a lot of civil rights activists, and I worked with a lot of women’s rights activists, and there were many people in both movements who kind of sacrificed the other movement…. But the two of them [Abzug and Shirley Chisholm] were just constant in their articulation that we cannot deal with these issues separately, they’re inextricably connected, and we’re going -to be the stronger if we work in coalition.” (Nadine Hack p. 129)
    4. “Bella had that capacity to see how the peace movement was intricately tied to the women’s movement, and how the environmental movement would never go anyplace if you didn’t do something about women, and how the political process could be used for all of that.” (Faye Wattleton p. 231)
    5. “The environmental links to breast cancer gave us an entry point that all women can relate to. … Relating things to your own life, your own body is important, and to the struggle of those who are the least fortunate on the planet.  Bella was advocating for a deep empathy, a kind of solidarity in organizing, to counter the ‘not in my backyard’ approach.” (Susan Davis p. 271)
    6. “So you’d have a strong, clear message coming from a lot of forces working together – women of color, women in the labor community, political women, movement women.  I haven’t seen that kind of action from the women’s community in a long time.” (Martha Baker p. 236)