Senator Wendy Davis putting the time in with 11 hour filibuster to stop anti-abortion bill

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In a feat of stunning oration, the Democrat spoke for half a day to stop an anti-abortion bill being passed in Texas. Just who is this loquacious heroine?

It’s rare to achieve overnight global  celebrity while wearing pink running shoes – and going nowhere. Senator Wendy Davis stood for almost 11 hours straight, talking without deviation – or even recourse to a loo – to block a Texas abortion bill that would have restricted the rights of women to govern their own bodies. At one point, she put on a back brace, bolstering her instant hero status. As she hobbled triumphantly home in the early hours, outsiders asked, just who is she?

Wendy Davis has always fought to be heard after a life made for the movies. Now 50, she was raised in Fort Worth by a single mother who worked in an ice cream shop to support four children. By 14, Davis was selling newspaper subscriptions and orange juice in a shopping centre food court. By 19, she, too, was a single mother and living on a trailer park with her daughter after a divorce.

But Davis was smart and, as Texan Republicans know to their cost, not one to quit. When a colleague handed her a brochure for a nearby community college, she saw an escape. She enrolled and later secured loans to transfer to university, where she finished top of her class. Nobody in her family had earned a degree. After marrying again and having a second child, Davis won a place at Harvard Law School, commuting to Boston for three years – and graduating with honours.

A career in law followed. Davis started as a lowly clerk before setting up her own practice, which specialised in political cases. She served for nine years on the Fort Worth City Council and helped create thousands of jobs in her county by spearheading economic development projects.

In 2008, Davis narrowly defeated a Republican rival to become one of Texas’ 31 senators, 12 of whom are Democrats. She won re-election in 2012, defying Republican lawmakers who had tried to push through electoral boundary changes that would have seen her defeated. Earlier that year, her office in Fort Worth was firebombed. It had been empty. The perpetrator was later identified as a homeless man with mental health problems.

While in office she has sponsored bills on cancer prevention, payday loans, the rights of sexual assault victims and transparency in government. And she knows the law surrounding the filibuster. In 2011, she attempted to talk down a state budget that took $5bn from public schools, forcing Rick Perry, the Governor, to hold a special session. She later won back much of the money. Perry called her a “show horse” after the stunt won Davis national notoriety, leading to speculation about a future run for higher office. Such talk reached a new level today.

Perry is still the boss in Texas after failing to win the Republican presidential nomination. He had been poised to sign the abortion bill, and may yet get a chance. He can bet Davis will be there, trainers at the ready.

Other jobs where length matters…

Wendy Davis’s heroic 11-hour filibuster was certainly something. But how does it compare with other jobs where one stands up and speaks for a long time? George Osborne spoke for 50 minutes about his spending review today. But his efforts are nothing compared with MP Henry Brougham, whose six-hour speech on law reform on 7 February1828 was the longest in Commons history.

Teaching is another  profession used to the stand’n’talk. One English teacher told me: “On average, I’m up and about for a minimum of four hours a day in class. In true Nora Batty style, several colleagues have lumpy tights/varicose veins.”

Other endeavours can lead to hours of standing and talking – your street preachers, your tour guides, your 24-hour-news correspondents. None of those quite compares to Frenchman Lluis Colet, who spoke non-stop for 124 hours (five days) in 2009, rambling about Salvador Dali, Catalan culture and more to enter Guinness World Records for the longest non-stop speech in history. Beat that, Wendy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living