Portrait of Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor 1935 —

First Woman Appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States

Sandra Day O’Connor was born in El Paso, TX and spent part of her childhood living on a cattle ranch in Arizona where she learned to ride and handle the duties of a ranch lifestyle. She attended college and law school at Stanford University in California. In 1952, opportunities for female lawyers were slim and she struggled to find work.

Back in Arizona, the 1960’s brought better fortunes and Sandra Day O’Connor worked as the state’s assistant attorney general and in 1969 was appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy in the state senate. In 1974, she ran for and won a seat as a judge in the Maricopa County (AZ) Superior Court. She won praise and developed a reputation for being firm but just. In 1979, she moved to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed unanimously by the Senate. She served until 2006 when she left the court to care for her ailing husband, John. She was a part of many groundbreaking decisions including Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore and was often a swing vote in important cases. Rising above politics, she focused on the law and what she believed were the intentions of the U.S. Constitution. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama and is an inspiration to women who want to make a difference.

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