March Madness (3/9/2018)-Bella Abzug v. Hattie Leah Henenberg

Today’s head-to-head is between Bella Abzug and Hattie Leah Henenberg. Bella “Battling Bella” Abzug was one of the first members of Congress to support gay rights, and Hattie Leah Henenberg was one-third of the first all female Texas Supreme Court in 1925.  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!

Bella “Battling Bella” Abzug-“A woman’s place is in the House – The House of Representatives.”

Image via Wikipedia

From a very young age, Bella was extremely competitive and would consistently beat other children in different competitions. She defied her Jewish Synagogue by performing a mourning prayer every day for a year after her father passed away despite the prayer being traditionally held only for the sons of the deceased. She was class president of her high school and obtained admission to the bar in the 1940s, a time when there were very few women lawyers. She openly fought for Women’s rights and equality; years before her actual election to the House of Representatives, she was placed on Nixon’s infamous master list of political opponents. She beat a 14-year incumbent for her spot in the United States House of Representatives, earning the nickname “Battling Bella.” After her district was eliminated because of redistricting, she ran again and again beat an incumbent for the position. She was one of the first members to openly support legislation for gay rights by introducing the Equality Act of 1974. She attempted to run for the United States Senate, but lost by less than one percent, despite the fact that the media did not once cover her campaign and only spoke about the male candidates. She continued to advocate for women’s rights throughout the rest of her life, coining the popular phrase, “A woman’s place is in the House – The House of Representatives.” She spoke before the United Nations and traveled the world fighting for women until her death. She was very well-known for wearing vibrant hats, but constantly told people, “it’s what’s under the hats that count!” A year before her death, Battling Bella won the Blue Beret Peacekeepers Award, which is the highest civilian honor that the United Nations can award.

Hattie Leah Henenberg-“From birth to death, the poor man is the prey of petty swindlers … Legal aid work consists of giving legal advice and legal assistance gratuitously, if necessary, to all persons who may appear worthy, and who, by reason of poverty, are unable to procure assistance elsewhere. A legal aid society does not give charitable support to needy persons, but only justice and the enforcement of just and honorable claims.”

Image via Tarlton Law Library

While working as a stenographer, Hattie took night classes to obtain her law degree from Dallas School of Law (Southern Methodist University). After obtaining passage to the state bar in 1916, Hattie practiced in Dallas and became an active member of and advocated for many different social causes, including creating a Free Legal Aid Bureau of the Dallas Bar Association. In 1925, she was appointed to the special all Female Texas Supreme Court because she, and other female lawyers, were not associated with the parties involved in a certain case like all the male lawyers in the state. After the case, the special Texas Supreme Court disbanded and Hattie returned to Dallas to become a nationally recognized member of the state Democratic Party and helped get President Franklin D. Roosevelt elected.

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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