June 20, 1978
Bella Abzug appointed co-chair of President Carters National Advisory Committee (NAC) on women. Forty-member
committee to monitor federal and state
government for implementation of IWY
National Plan of Action.
November 22, 1978
NAC cancels meeting with President.
Only 15 minutes were allotted for a
discussion of the major concerns of
women and issues affecting them.
January 11, 1979, 3:00 p.m.
NAC issues press release critical of President's policies warning "that the administration's anti-inflation program will impose additional burdens upon women in
increased unemployment, cut-backs in
social programs, postponement of comprehensive national health insurance ..."
January 11,1979, late afternoon
Jody Powell, President Carter's press
secretary, shows NAC press release to
Jerry Rafshoon, Presidential advisor.
January 12, 1979, morning
Angered over issuance of press release,
White House staffers meet and decide to
fire Abzug. After conferring with President, they agree to wait until after
scheduled NAC meeting.
January 12, 1979, 1:30 p.m.
President meets with NAC, telling them
he wants to improve his relationship
with women's groups. Shortly after the
session, Hamilton Jordan, the President's
chief staff aide, informs Abzug that she
January 13, 1979
Twenty-six members of Advisory Committee resign in protest.
Helen Copitka, Commissioner, Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles: "It appears
that females from New York who are
competent, visible, articulate, and who do
not always agree with the President will
have a difficult time surviving the Washington scene.
"To be fired for having issued a news
release which was critical of the president's plans to cut back on social programs as part of his inflation control program, with or without approval from the
full committee seems somewhat absurd.
After all, part of any leadership role involves being a healthy adversary; a questioner of practices, policies and plans. It
appears that Abzug, like Costanza before
her, fulfilled this part of the leadership
role too well.
"This leads one to the question-Is
there a role in government for competent
women who are healthy adversaries?
From the data that we have so far, the
answer may very well be a resounding
'NO!' If this is the case, it raises even
more critical questions about whether
and how we as women can work to be
heard and heeded by those in the formalized systems of government. It also raises
the problematic issue of style vs. content,
an issue that has caused us a great deal of
consternation in the past, and one that
appears to have reared its ugly head again.
We have all heard before, and will no
doubt hear again, Tt's not what she did
or said that we object to (content), it's
the way it was done or said (style).' Often
what is added is 'her timing was very poor,'
'if only she hadn't said it quite that way
at this time,' and so on.
"One wonders, after repeated episodes
like these, if perhaps all training for
women to function in the world should
not be conducted by Alice in Wonderland
Productions or Theatre of the Absurd,
since appearance and timing seem to be
more critical to survival in the present
than content, commitment, and competence."
Carolyn J. Hartman, President, Federally
Employed Women, Inc.: "It's a shame
that Carter could not handle the conflict
with Bella Abzug as well as he could cope
with trying to impose a Bert Lance on a
reluctant Congress and public. Bella is a
force to reckon with, to be sure, but her
aggressive, outspoken style does make
people sit up and listen-and perhaps over
"Carter's lack of understanding and
committment to women's issues became
very clear when he gave us the edict, 'life
is unfair,' concerning abortions for poor
women. This hasty firing reinforces the
feeling that Carter gives little thought or
significance to women's issues."
Peggy Hall, President, Montrose Chapter
of NOW,: I am outraged, angered and
hurt by the President's treatment of Bella
Abzug. She sat on the IWY Commission
representing the women of the United
States. Her dismissal and the method used
are a clear and open affront to women.
Carter has a well-documented history of
tolerance for male shortcomings: Bert
Lance, Andrew Young, Hamilton Jordan,
to name a few. Their foibles and failings
are accepted and even defended. One can
only conclude from the distinctly different treatment afforded, first Midge Costanza, then Abzug, that Carter can indeed
only deal with passive women.
"I was also dismayed to read in the local press that some Houston women saw
fit to side with the President against a
sister. This does them no credit and diminishes our credibility as a movement. If
we cannot support one another, at least
publicly, then our success will be further
"I suggest that we return Bella to the
White House on our terms-as President!"
Yvonne Braoch, President, Houston Area
Chapter of NOW: "Houston Area NOW
has protested to President Jimmy Carter
his dismissal of Bella Abzug as chair of
the National Advisory Committee for
Women. Abzug is a fully competent representative for women on the many issues
we are concerned about. It is clear that
Abzug took her responsibility seriously,,
and like the rest of us, believed that the
Carter administration did-, too.
"Granted, Abzug has an emphatic
style, but most people do not consider
this a detraction from her mission. Rather,
it seems that her (and our) insistence that
President Carter and his administration
act to implement his earlier promises to
support the rights of women in jobs, education, and social programs are not to be
tolerated. However, we will not be so
"Furthermore, we have protested the
manner in which President Carter dismissed the chairwoman of this important
committee. It is doubtful that he would
have delegated this duty to a subordinate
had anyone else in a similar position been
involved. It seems that President Carter
can tolerate the lack of restraint in his
male advisors, such as Hamilton Jordan
and Andrew Young, or even illegal activities (from Bert Lance and Peter Bourne).
But he is completely intolerant of a responsible, assertive woman."
Olga Soliz, President, Women's Equity
Action League: "In the summer of 1976 I
was elected a delegate to the Democratic
National Convention. My friends did not
understand my early and open support of
Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter as the
next President of the U.S., but they,
nevertheless, sponsored my trip to New
York as a Carter delegate.
"Bella Abzug's race for the U.S. Senate
was our big topic of conversation at the
convention. We had heated debates on
ERA. abortion, and the issue of equal
representation of women as delegates at
the mini-convention in two years, but we
were not to speak or to gain access to the
leaders to bring these topics to the floor.
Abzug, clearly one of the "in" group on
the Carter team and other elected women
had made deals .
"At the IWY it happened again—we
were kept out, or away from the
speakers. Yet, I feel that with all that
happened, it has created a feeling of
solidarity-a feeling many of us have not
had for a long time. No matter what is
said about Abzug, she was right, she is
our spokesperson, she has been doing it
for a long, long time, she is one of our
mentors, and she is one of our leaders.
"We as women have a long way to go
and this one more insult will bring reaffirming and repledging of our commitment to the continued fight for the rights
of women, and with these rights the
rights of all humankind. Con nueva
Brenda Gehan, President, League of Women Voters of Houston: "Bella Abzug's
dismissal by President Carter as co-chairwoman of the National Advisory Committee on Women is disappointing both
for the manner in which it was handled
and because of the lack of genuine interest in the cause of women's rights which
it suggests. Certainly no man has been
fired by the President in such a tactless
manner, although many men in appointed
and salaried positions in the administration have publicly criticized and disagreed
with the President.
"More importantly, though, this offhand way of dealing with one of the co-
leaders of an advisory committee leads
one to conclude that the mission of the
advisory committee has low status on the
President's priority list.
"If Carter really is concerned about
the issue of women's rights, and previous
statements have indicated such concern,
he owes the committee fresh evidence of
"At the same time, the committee, instead of withdrawing from the scene,
should enhance its efforts to work with
the administration on behalf of women's