Holtzman, Elizabeth (1941—)

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Holtzman, Elizabeth (1941—)

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1973–1981 . Born on August 11, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York; daughter of Sidney Holtzman and Filia (Ravitz) Holtzman; Radcliffe College, B.A., magna cum laude, 1962; Harvard Law School, J.D., 1965.

Elizabeth Holtzman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 11, 1941. After earning her undergraduate degree from Radcliffe College (1962) and a law degree from Harvard (1965), she began her career in politics as an assistant to New York City Mayor John Lindsay in 1967. Between 1970 and 1972, she served as a Democratic state committeewoman and district leader, in addition to founding the Brooklyn Women's Political Caucus. In 1972, Holtzman challenged 50-year veteran Emanuel Celler for the Democratic nomination to a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Running an energetic first campaign with a largely volunteer staff, she focused on constituent needs and her considerable ideological differences with Celler, who had blocked the Equal Rights Amendment and maintained his support for the war in Vietnam. Holtzman won the primary by a narrow margin of approximately 600 votes. She then easily defeated her Republican opponent as well as Celler, who had continued in the general election on the Liberal Party ticket; she was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Holtzman served four consecutive terms in the House of Representatives. In her first term, she distinguished herself during the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon with her investigative work as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, and in 1973 she filed suit to end American military involvement in Cambodia. A district court ruled in her favor, but the case was ultimately defeated in the Court of Appeals. Holtzman also gained a seat on the Judiciary Committee during her first term, where she sought to revise immigration laws and contributed to the creation of new rules concerning how evidence is presented in federal courts. When the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) neared in 1978, she helped to win an extension. Holtzman also participated in achieving a prohibition against sex discrimination in federal programs. Her efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice culminated in the creation of a federal Nazi-fighting unit that expelled hundreds of former Nazis from the United States.

Instead of seeking a fifth term of office in the House of Representatives in 1980, Holtzman ran for a Senate seat. She secured the Democratic nomination but lost in the general election to Republican Alfonse D'Amato. She served as district attorney for Kings County in Brooklyn, New York (1981–90). During her term, she prosecuted cases of rape, battering, incest, and child abuse, among other crimes. In 1989, she was elected comptroller of New York City, a position

she held until 1993, when she lost her bid for reelection. In 1992, she made a second unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. After 1994, Holtzman resumed practicing law in Brooklyn.


Office of the Historian. Women in Congress, 1917–1990. Commission on the Bicentenary of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1991.

suggested reading:

Holtzman, Elizabeth with Cynthia L. Cooper. Who Said It Would Be Easy?: One Woman's Life in the Political Arena. Arcade, 1996.

Sonya Elaine Schryer , freelance writer, Lansing, Michigan

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Holtzman, Elizabeth (1941—)

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