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On This Day

September 25, 1981

Sandra Day O’Connor Becomes First Female Supreme Court Justice

Pres. Ronald Reagan’s first of two Supreme Court appointees (Antonin Scalia was the second) was confirmed by the Senate 99-0.

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“It’s wonderful to be the first to do something, but I didn’t want to be the last, and if I did not do the job well enough there might be no second woman on the court.”

O'Connor in 2012
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About the Woman:

  • Despite her exceptional academic credentials (#2 in her class at Stanford Law), she couldn’t find a law firm that would hire a woman. Her first law job was unpaid.
  • From 1960-65, she was a stay-at-home mom to her three sons.
  • In 1965, she became the Arizona Assistant Attorney General, and later she became the first female Senate Majority Leader (R) in AZ.
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Her Lasting Legacy:

In 1992, she cast the deciding vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey,  upholding the court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and striking down a PA law requiring women to obtain spousal consent for abortion.

In 2000, she cast the deciding vote in Bush v. Gore, settling the dispute in the 2000 election and awarding the presidency to George W. Bush.

 

 

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“Treat people well. Don’t mislead them. Don’t be prickly. Don’t say things that are aggravating. Try to be as agreeable as you can be. Try to be helpful rather than harmful. Try to cooperate.

O'Connor in 2013 to the Harvard Business Review on what it's like working with colleagues with whom you disagree (potentially) for life. Supreme Court justices have lifetime tenure.
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There have been 113 Supreme Court justices.  In addition to O’Connor, only three other women have served on our high court:

  • Ruth Ginsburg (1993 – present)
  • Sonia Sotomayor (2009 – present)
  • Elena Kagan (2010 – present)

All (except O’Connor) were appointed by Democrats.

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Last week, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) issued a proclamation establishing September 25, 2018, as Sandra Day O'Connor Day. No word on whether O'Connor will attend any of the festivities at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

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