Masters visitors who read The Chronicle's April 6 editorial on Bella Abzug learned that, at least in the paper's editorial offices, not much has changed about the South. With their habitual disregard for simple good taste, the editors attacked Ms. Abzug in death as they frequently did in life. Labeling her a "women's libber," the paper used a term which it apparently assumed would elicit knowing nods from its loyal and benighted readers.
Ms. Abzug was an American original. A champion of rights for all women, she was the first Jewish woman elected to Congress, and co-author of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts. Ms. Abzug was an attorney, a lecturer, and an environmentalist; she was a wife and a mother.
Against its views of Ms. Abzug's deficiencies, the editorial pitted the sentiments of E. Merrill Root, an author long out of print and longer out of memory. Mr. Root preferred women such as the tyrannical and adulterous Catherine the Great; assorted mystics and neurotics like Joan of Arc, St. Theresa, and Emily Dickinson; and even Molly Pitcher whom pop history credits with nonexistent war-time heroics.
Confronted with Mr. Root's vision of vestal virgins of the hearth and home, there are some Augustans who gratefully remember Bella Abzug.
Charles P. Heywood, Martinez
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