March Madness (3/6/2018)-Margaret Brent v. Barbara Jordan

Today we have Margaret Brent, the first woman to practice law in colonial America, against Barbara Jordan, the first African-American woman elected to the Texas State Senate, the first Female Texas state representative in the House of Representatives, and the first African American woman to be President Pro Tem of the Senate. Which woman inspires you the most? You can vote by participating in our daily Twitter or Facebook poll, or by casting a vote at the Circulation Desk.  Happy voting!

Margaret Brent-“I’ve come to seek a voice in this assembly. And yet because I am a woman, forsooth I must stand idly by and not even have a voice in the framing of your laws.”

Image via Wikipedia.

One of thirteen total children to an English lord, Margaret Brent and several of her siblings immigrated to the new world to better their own fortunes. Because of her lineage, Margaret and two of her sisters became the first female land owners in the colony of Maryland. Very soon after moving to the colonies, Margaret became good friends with the Maryland governor and was joint guardians with him over a young Native American girl who the governor promised to educate. She was also an acting attorney within the colony, though the colony was small and did not often need her. When the English Civil War arrived in the Maryland Colony in the 1960s, the governor was forced to seek help from mercenaries to protect the colonists but died before he could pay them. Margaret was named his executrix and liquidated the estate to pay the mercenaries. The governor’s heir was in England at the time, and Margaret was named the heir’s attorney in Maryland. She faced struggles to attend the Maryland assembly, where she was told to leave because of her gender and was told she was not allowed to vote, despite being a landowner and the acting attorney of a landowner. Despite all the good she did to protect the slowly shrinking colony, as soon as the colony was stabilized and the governor’s heir came from England, Margaret and her siblings were forced to leave Maryland. She became a landowner in Virginia, where she and her sister Mary remained one of the only unmarried women in the colony until their deaths.

Barbara Jordan-“More is required of public officials than slogans and handshakes and press releases. More is required. We must hold ourselves strictly accountable. We must provide the people with a vision of the future.”

Image via Wikipedia.

Born into a very religious family, Barbara Jordan was inspired in high school by Edith Sampson to become a lawyer. After attending university and law school, Barbara started practicing in Texas. She spent the majority of her career advocating for civil rights and campaigning to enter one public office or another. Barbara’s third attempt to gain a seat in the Texas Senate was successful and she was the first African-American woman to be elected into that position. She was the president pro tem of the Senate for a period and also served a single day as acting state governor. In 1972, she was elected the first female to be a representative for Texas in the House of Representatives. She remained a well-known member of politics until 1979 (prior to which she was mentioned as being a possible running mate with President Carter) when she retired to become an adjunct professor at UT Austin. Barbara might have been elected to the Supreme Court, if her declining health had not been a factor.

Disclaimer: This is a friendly competition that is meant to increase awareness about some amazing women. The match ups were determined by a random outcome generator, and the winner will be determined based solely on the votes submitted by the participants. We are in no way seeking to pit one woman against each other in any inappropriate way, because each woman is inspiring in her own right.

Author: Alyson Drake

Alyson Drake is the Assistant Director for Public Services and the Director of the Excellence in Legal Research Program at Texas Tech University Law School, where she also teaches courses in Texas Legal Research, and Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research and administers the Legal Practice Program's research workshops. She blogs at

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