Wendy Davis: From teen mom to Harvard Law to famous filibuster

CNN
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 3:26pm

The Texas state senator whose filibuster of an abortion bill became a national phenomenon has a long history of persisting against tough odds.

Wendy Davis -- the 50-year-old Democrat who stood and spoke for 13 hours Tuesday at the Texas Capitol -- went from being a teen mom to graduating from Harvard Law School.

She began working after school at age 14 to help support her single mother and three siblings, according to her campaign website. "By 19, Wendy was a single mother herself, working two jobs to make ends meet in hopes of creating a better life for her young daughter."

She pursued community college, then transferred to Texas Christian University. With the help of scholarships and loans, she graduated first in her class. She went on to graduate with honors from Harvard Law at the age of 33.

She also had a second daughter.

While standing during the filibuster, Davis wore pink running shoes. It was unclear whether the color was chosen because anti-abortion Republican feminists have been referred to as "pink elephants." In 2010, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spoke of a "stampede of pink elephants," promising a movement of GOP women against abortion.

Davis entered public life in 2008, defeating a longtime Republican incumbent to enter the Texas Senate. Her district covers parts of Fort Worth and its suburbs.

This week's was not her first filibuster.

She previously took on Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican majority, "staging a filibuster and forcing a special session in her attempt to stop $5 billion in crippling cuts to Texas public schools," her website says.

When she was running for the state Senate last fall, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial described her as "a successful attorney with a powerful personal narrative," but it pointed out she has legal clients that are public entities, such as Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and the North Texas Tollway Authority.

Davis pledged to abstain on voting on some legislation that at least one client -- the tollway authority -- was expected to advance. The newspaper endorsed her candidacy last fall, calling her "a tough fighter, a conscientious public servant and an able leader."

Her politics, however, apparently inspired some critics to violence.

Last year, firebombs were thrown at Davis' office. She was not present at the time, and no one was injured.

"Thank you all for your expressions of support and concern," Davis said on Twitter at the time. "My team and I are concentrating on moving forward and staying focused."

With tens of thousands of new followers Wednesday as a result of her filibuster, Davis tweeted, "Thanks to the powerful voices of thousands of Texans, #SB5 is dead. An incredible victory for Texas women and those who love them."

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