March Madness, Round 2 (3/21/2018) — Bella Abzug v. Hortense Sparks Ward

Today’s Round 2 match-up features “Battling Bella” Abzug and Hortense Sparks Ward. 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!

Image via Wikipedia.

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

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.

Image via Wikipedia.

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…”

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.

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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