26 Mar Happy Birthday Blog: Sandra Day O’Connor
Sandra Day O’Connor
Born: March 26, 1930
El Paso, Texas
Known For: First Woman Justice on the Supreme Court of the US
Since we recently reviewed the documentary ‘RBG’ in honor of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s birthday, we decided to spend a little more time celebrating the birthday’s of the other women justice’s (there’s only been 3 others). It just so happens that former Justice O’Connor’s birthday fell a week or so after Justice Ginsburg. This gave us the opportunity to learn more about the first woman to serve in the US highest court of law.
O’Connor spent her early childhood on family-owned ranches in Texas and Arizona. She attended Stanford University for both her undergraduate and her law degree in the 1950s. While at Stanford she served on the Stanford Law Review, finished 3rd in her class and graduated in two years. She married her husband shortly after graduating, and similarly to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, found it difficult to find work in law firms because of her gender.
O’Connor worked her way up in Arizona politics, eventually being named the Attorney General for the state in 1965. Following this service, the Governor appointed her to fill a vacant seat in the Arizona Senate. The next year she ran for re-election and won the seat outright. By 1973, she became the first woman to serve as Arizona’s (or any states) Majority Leader. After her years in state politics, she moved on to the courts. She worked in Arizona appellate courts for the remainder of the decade.
She gained fame on a national level when she President Regan named her as his nominee for the Supreme Court. With her confirmation, Justice O’Connor became the first woman Justice on the Supreme Court. She wrote about her early struggles as a woman on the court. Namely, the lack of a ladies restroom close to the courtroom. Access to toilet facilities, and sanitary products, is a huge measure of inequality for women across every field. When positions or fields are entirely dominated by men, then little consideration is given to the physical structures and access that women require.
Justice O’Connor served on the court until her retirement in 2006. She is a Republican and represented a conservative but pragmatic opinion on the court. She remained active in her retirement until in 2018 she announced her diagnosis of early stage dementia.
For breaking down barriers and serving the court with honor and dignity, we salute Justice O’Connor on her 89th birthday!
Read more about her here.