It’s been exactly one month since most of us in the United States first heard of Wendy Davis: the senator who filibustered the Texas state senate for 10 hours in order to prevent anti-abortion bill SB 5 from passing. I’m sure she’s subsequently left the minds of many—but I haven’t been able to get her out of mine. In honor of the wonderful work Wendy’s doing for women (alliteration!), I’m naming her this week’s Lady You Should Know [title is work-in-progress].
First off, you should know that Wendy’s a single mom. She had her daughter when she was eighteen and was divorced a year later, living in a trailer park. So at an age when I was getting overly excited about my Johnny Depp poster, Wendy Davis was raising a daughter, on her own, in poverty—something I can’t fathom even seven years later.
In addition to her single motherhood, Wendy was raised by a single mother, herself. Her father bailed and never gave them any child support (this hits a little too close to home for me). Her mother, a mother of four with a sixth grade education, provided for her family the best she could by working at an ice cream parlor.
I’m not sharing all of this in order to skew sympathetic when it comes to Wendy Davis. There are millions of single moms and millions of people who were raised by them. It doesn’t automatically qualify you for sainthood if your story involved single parenthood. But knowing this about her does give very stark insight into why she cares so much about the women of America. Besides just being a woman, herself, she’s the daughter of a mother and the mother of two daughters. Women are her world and always have been.
Luckily, Wendy isn’t just a woman—she’s a smart woman. She heard about a paralegal program, enrolled, and it ended up snowballing into a full four-year scholarship at Texas Christian where she graduated first in her class. She has since gone on to receive her law degree from a small New England institution called Harvard.
She’s a senator now but, before she got this far, she served in a federal clerkship, worked as a litigator and executive, and currently co-owns a practice where she operates as an Of Counsel. She was elected to the Fort Worth city council in 1999 and stayed in office until 2008, when she was elected into the state senate, Texas, District 10, and has since been reelected even though her first nationally noticed filibuster (in 2011, where she spoke against a conservative plan to cut almost $4 billion in public education funding; she stopped the bill from being passed, of course) convinced area republicans that she would never be voted back into office after she took her stand.
Although Wendy was stripped of her Education Committee membership as punishment for her filibuster, she’s continued serving the public with women and children in mind. Because of this, she’s faced scorn (Rick Perry called her a “show horse” and she’s garnered the wrath of many additional Texas republicans) and even physical threats. Her office was attacked during her reelection campaign in 2011—with a Molotov cocktail. The people who hate her aren’t fucking around.
And that’s why it’s so important that we know who she is and what she’s done for us. It’s really cool that the pink sneakers she donned during her filibuster, last month, are out of stock everywhere. It’s really cool that women all over are proudly chanting, “stand with Wendy.” But we need to be aware of why we should support her and what’s going on in this country that deserves our attention and efforts.
Learning about Wendy Davis can help us become more aware of the issues women face in the U.S. and how we can help make this country better for us. Not only should we look up to her, we should actually take a page out of Wendy’s book. After all, she’s the wise woman who famously said, “I will continue to stand very strong for the things that I’ve been working on and believe in and I know our community believes in. Public education, job creation, and women’s health care.”
Sounds like a pretty good choice of role model to me.
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