As the pregnant woman entered the hotel lobby, all conversation stopped. Perhaps she was overreacting, but the silence scared her. She instinctively glanced around the room, hoping to find a friendly face, but her eyes found only hatred. Taking a deep breath to regain her self-confidence, she approached the registration desk. "Hello, my name is Bella Abzug." Her voice-taut and edgy-filled the room. "I have a reservation."
"We don't like northerners comin' down here defendin' criminals," the man said, glaring at Bella. "You ain't welcome."
Bella's pulse quickened and her heart dropped all the way to her pregnant belly, where she could feel her baby kicking. I knew defending a Negro in the South would be tough, but the facts prove my client's innocence. As Bella opened her mouth to protest, three stocky security guards inched toward her. Startled, she turned and marched outside, slipping into a taxi. An hour later, Bella realized that no one in town would give her a room.
"You want to try another hotel?" the cabdriver asked sympathetically.
"No. Take me to the bus station, please."
"You goin' home?"
"Of course not!" she scoffed. When they arrived at the grimy station, Bella quickly found the ladies' room.
A locked bathroom stall may not be a hotel room-but I'll do whatever it takes to defend my client, she thought to herself. Patting her pregnant belly and taking a seat on the toilet cover, Bella prepared for a long night.
Although her efforts to defend Willie McGee were fruitless, Bella continued to defend civil rights, and became a leader in the women's movement. She became the first Jewish congresswoman in 1970, and fought for freedom for Soviet Jewry and aid to Israel.