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What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Mrs. America’s Episode About Bella Abzug

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tags: feminism, womens history, ERA, television, Phyllis Schlafly



In the most recent installment of FX and Hulu’s nine-part series Mrs. AmericaBella Abzug (Margo Martindale) steps into the limelight as the national face of the pro–Equal Rights Amendment movement when she is chosen by President Jimmy Carter to preside over the first-ever National Women’s Conference. Working with Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), and gay rights activists to unify factions within the women’s liberation movement, Abzug makes arrangements for the conference while Phyllis Schlafly and the conservative opposition struggle to coordinate a response.

The episode also contains a number of more surprising details. Did Schlafly really collaborate with the Ku Klux Klan? Did Jimmy Carter really have a closeted lesbian as an adviser? Below, just as we did for the first six episodes, we break it all down.

Phyllis Schlafly Gets a Pie in the Face

Episode 7 opens with a scene in which Schlafly gets a pie thrown in her face by a stranger at an event. Though this moment seems nearly too slapstick to be true, this did, in fact, actually happen. According to the Associated Press, which captured the aftermath in a photo, the real Schlafly was “pied” while at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on Saturday, April 16, 1977. The show’s depiction matches the scene described almost exactly, with one small difference. In the show, the pie appears to be a cream pie whereas, in reality, it was apple.

The man responsible for throwing the pie was Aron Kay, a left-wing activist who made a name for himself by flinging desserts at famous people whose politics he disagreed with. Over the course of his pie-throwing career, Kay’s victims included such prominent figures as former CIA Director William Colby, William F. Buckley, and Andy Warhol. Kay told the AP that he targeted Schlafly because of her anti-ERA efforts and chose an apple pie because “It was in the tradition of motherhood and apple pie.”

Read entire article at Slate

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