Hillary, Bella Abzug and Hats

By Tom Watson

Watching the powerful short biographical video that Hillary's campaign released ahead of her big kick-off rally at Four Freedoms Park, I was struck by two very different but related thoughts.

One centered around resilience, and the need for women in public life to possess the ability to come back from attacks, calumny, prejudice and defeat. As CAP President and Hillary confidante Neera Tanden wrote more than a year ago:

Tenacity. That is the critical thread that has been woven throughout Hillary Clinton’s life, driven her many successes and played a central role in capturing the country’s imagination. It is a characteristic that even her philosophical opponents seem to most admire. They respect the fighter in Hillary, even when they disagree.

The other was about hats.

And specifically the hats we see on the Hillary Rodham of the 60s and 70s, the broad brimmed funky style straight out of a Curtis Mayfield number. And those lids reminded me of Bella Abzug.

Rep. Abzug was one of the great political figures in the New York of those decades, a strong woman who fought back, took no prisoners, and made her mark. Sure, she lost her bid for the office eventually held by Ed Koch. “Battling Bella” simply did not back down – and in an era that did not exactly value women with sharp elbows in public life.

“A woman’s place,” she famously and loudly declared, “is in the House of Representatives.”

She supported gay rights, introduced the first federal equal rights legislation, and fought for openness in government. Bella Abzug was both unforgettable and indefatigable. You might beat her at the polls, but you’d never defeat her.

As Hillary Clinton speaks on Roosevelt Island, in the shadow of the United Nations, that quality of resilience will – at least in part – define the moment. Every woman watching her speech will understand immediately that resilience matters in public life. To those of us who wear the label #HillaryMen it’s a quality we both honor and admire.

The video leading to the rally is perfectly named: “Fighter.” Because Hillary Clinton has fought. She’s known defeat. She’s come back stronger.

And she’s right here.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.