March Madness, Round 2 (3/23/2018) — Sarah Weddington v. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Round 2 continues today with a match-up between Sarah Weddington and Eleanor Holmes Norton. 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 Britannica.

Sarah Weddington-“Everyone wants to know they have made a difference…I know I have. I may be tired, but I am not bored.”

Born in Abilene, Texas, Sarah Weddington was constantly involved in school activities before graduating from high school a full two years early. She entered the University of Texas Law School at only 19 and graduated in the top quarter of her class three years later. Despite being a successful student, Sarah had trouble obtaining a job after graduation. She decided to join a group of law graduates that wanted to challenge anti-abortion statutes. Soon after joining, the group was approached by a woman who’d been prevented from having an abortion and wished to sue the district attorney known for enforcing the statute. Because of her own history, having had an illegal abortion years earlier in Mexico, Sarah started researching the case and soon was deep in the Roe v. Wade In 1971 and 1972, Sarah presented the case in front of the Supreme Court of the United States and argued based on many of the Amendments to the Constitution and on privacy decisions made by the Supreme Court previously. In 1973, the Supreme Court overturned the Texas abortion laws and sided in favor of Sarah’s case, making her the youngest person ever to argue successfully to the Supreme Court at only 27 years old. After the Roe v. Wade decision, Sarah was elected to the Texas House of Representatives and was an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Image via Britannica.

Eleanor Holmes Norton-“I defended the First Amendment, and you seldom get to defend the First Amendment by defending people you like … You don’t know whether the First Amendment is alive and well until it is tested by people with despicable ideas. And I loved the idea of looking a racist in the face—remember this was a time when racism was much more alive and well than it is today—and saying, ‘I am your lawyer, sir, what are you going to do about that?”

Daughter of a school teacher and a civil servant, Eleanor got involved in civil rights protests and activism when she was a college student. By the time she’d graduated with her bachelor degree, she’d already been arrested for organizing and participating in sit-ins. She participated in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in an attempt to get as many African American’s signed up to vote as possible. While in Yale Law School, she was on the founding board of the Women’s Right’s Law Reporter, which was the first legal journal to focus solely on women’s rights. In 1973, she helped found the National Black Feminist Organization. In 1977, she was appointed the first female chair of the EEOC and while there released the first set of regulations that stated continued sexual harassment was discrimination that violated federal law. In 1990, she was elected to the House of Representatives as a non-voting member representing the District of Columbia, where she is still active. There, she supported the disarming of nuclear missiles and the bill that would make federal expenditures more transparent and accessible. Additionally, she has fought to get D.C. voting rights within the House of Representatives, which eventually succeeded in 2009 but did not affect her position there. While in the House, she has continued her civil rights and female rights work, including publishing articles about feminist rights.

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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