March Madness (3/10/2018) Hortense Sparks Wards vs. Florence E. Allen

Today’s head-to-head is between Hortense Sparks Ward and Florence E. Allen. Hortense Sparks Ward was the first woman to pass the Texas State Bar and also served as one-third of the all female Texas Supreme Court in 1925. Florence E. Allen was the first female Federal Court judge.  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!

Hortense Sparks Ward-“When a woman in Texas marries today, her husband has the sole management of all her separate property and of all her interest in the community property … He may even mortgage or sell every piece of furniture in the home, and she is helpless to prevent, even if her earnings have paid for every piece. He has a right to sell her dresses if he sees fit, and she cannot prevent…”

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After working as a court reporter for a time, Hortense married an attorney and then became the first woman to pass the Texas State Bar in 1910. Afterwards, she worked with her husband but did mostly background work due to the response of all male juries. Hortense was an avid advocate for women’s rights and led campaigns that resulted in women being able to vote in the Texas primary elections. In 1925, when virtually all qualified male lawyers in Texas had to recuse themselves from a case due to personal connection with the parties, Hortense was named Chief Justice in a special Texas Supreme Court made up of her and two other female lawyers.

Florence E. Allen-“It’s so worth-while being a judge, because, if I make good, I can help prove that a woman’s place is as much on the bench, in City Council, or in Congress, as it is in the home.”

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Florence Allen was the daughter of a college professor and showed a talent for music at a very young age. She obtained a degree in music and studied abroad in Germany to bolster her studies. She would have become a professional musician, but an injury cut her career short. After her musical dreams did not pan out, Florence began to be increasingly interested in political science and the law. After passing the Ohio bar exam, Florence struggled to become successful the male dominated legal profession. She began to obtain experience working for Legal Aid clinics and fighting for the rights of the oppressed. After winning some cases and earning the respect of her peers, her career soared. Very soon, she was elected as a judge in Ohio, eventually becoming elected to the State Supreme Court. She remained there for many years, continuing to fight for woman’s rights and for world peace. She was well-known as a mentor and as someone who actively encouraged women to become lawyers. In 1934, she was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the United States Court of Appeals where she remained until retirement. By 1939, her name was mentioned as potential candidates to the United States Supreme Court and was repeatedly named every time a spot on the Court opened. However, she did not obtain the nomination, despite the attempts of her avid supporters.

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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