Fields: The Mad Hatter

Guest Columnist

Frederica Wilson, Miami’s freshly minted Democratic Congresswoman, has a problem.  Congressional decorum prohibits the wearing of hats on the House floor. 
Hats are Wilson’s personal trademark.

Frederica Wilson

Special note to Congresswoman Wilson.  You need to channel the late Bella Abzug who loudly and proudly represented portions of Manhattan’s liberal west side from 1971 to 1977.
 Hats were also Bella’s trademark.  I have one of her campaign buttons which is solely a picture of a hat.  That’s all you needed to show your support.

Like Wilson, she was given advanced warning. Bella’s came from The Doorkeeper; a fellow with the interesting moniker of William “Fishbait Miller.
She saw the rule as pointless and discriminatory against women.
The first time she walked on the floor Miller reminded her of the rule.
Her response was simple, clear and straight forward:
“Fuck you Fishbait!
 No one, ever again, bothered her about her hats.




(Fields was a law student and lobbyist in Washington for more than a decade. During some of this time, Abzug served in Congress.)

5 Responses to “Fields: The Mad Hatter”

  1. Di says:

    Hm…Those were the days! Where do you store all this stuff?

  2. To Sam says:

    If this story is true, Bella Abzug was a pioneer in the discourteous debate that now stains our politics. You don’t have to be a prude to realize that someone who resorts to such language has no ability to explain themselves and reasons why their positions are correct.

  3. Bella Was A Grandstander says:

    We can look back at Bella Abzug wistfully as a successful early day feminist. But her record reveals a political grandstander who was not much of a true statesperson. The hat was her trademark because it drew attention. She needed a prop to distract people. The hat combined with sharp commentary whipped up an often angry New York citizenry into thinking she meant business. But in really didn’t get much done. Few in Congress liked her. Mostly she was a rude, abrasive, opinionated, self-absorbed, nasty, self-promoter, grandstander and political entertainer. Except for being a very nice lady, which in itself is an improvement over Abzug, I otherwise see Wilson as following exactly a similar path. Big hat no cattle.

  4. David Bown says:

    and here’s the rest of the story
    (as it was reliably reported to me by the House Bill Clerk at the time)

    After Congresswoman Abzug made that remark to “Fishbait” he took the floor of the House, as was his privilege, and said:

    “Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker,
    After advising the Gentlewoman from New York of House Rule XXX prohibiting the wearing of a capote on the floor of the House she demanded that I perform an un-natural act upon myself and I protest.”

    Supposedly those words are in the Congressional, but I was not able to find the Record of that time on the web. Maybe someone else can and confirm this wonderfully colorful moment in House history. I am informed that the reason for the rule against wearing a hat on the House floor was that in the 1800s men (who were the only ones who could be Congressman or Senators thanks to the Founding Fathers) often kept small hand guns in the top of their hats. Prior to the rule there had been several instances where a Member pulled a gun on another Member and occasionally pulled the trigger. The rule was added to protect the House floor from gunplay.

    And now you have the rest of the story.

    David Brown, who is now a Broward political consultant, was an aide to one of the most powerful members of Congress — Dan Rostenkowski.

  5. sam fields says:

    Abrasive is a nice word to describe her.

    But she stood up for what she believed.. In the 1940’s she went to Mississippi to successfully fight to get a black man off death row who was wrongfully convicted of rape after a two and a half minute jury deliberation/lynching.. She opposed the Vietnam War before it was fashionable.

    For a time I dated her Admin. Assistant and it was not unusual for her to get a call at 3 am without even the suggestion of apologizing for waking her up.

    She pissed everyone off. Two who topped the list were Phil Burton a liberal Dem from California and head of the Democratic Caucus and Wayne Hays a conservative Dem from Ohio who chaired the House Administration Committee. That meant he assigned offices and parking spaces.

    They gave her a suite of offices that excluded a tiny office in the middle which backed up to Bella’s personal office. It was in there the ensconced Elizabeth Ray the infamous blonde bimbo secretary that could not type.

    When they knew Bella was in her office they would put Ray up against the wall and have the noisiest sex possible just to drive Bella crazy.


    Sam forgot to mention that Elizabeth Ray was Wayne Hayes’ mistress. She couldn’t type and couldn’t “even answer the phone,” she told reporters. She obviously had other talents and when her relationship with Hayes was exposed around 1976, his career ended.

    Hayes was the much-feared chair of the House Administration Committee. Members wouldn’t cross him because he controlled everything from their parking spaces to their offices and even if they had adequate air conditioning in the summer.