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Sandra Day O'Connor

It was this day in history September 25, 1981 that history was made with Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in as the first female United States Supreme Court justice. She was sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Berger after being appointed to the bench by then president Ronald Reagan. Not bad for a woman growing up on a cattle ranch and not being able to find a job as a lawyer in the private sector, because she was a woman.

That never discouraged her though. Sandra Day O’Connor attended Stanford Law School and graduated at the top of her class after two years with a law degree in 1952. After her graduation, she married classmate John Jay O’Connor III. She didn’t go to school to study law at first. She wasn’t interested in law until she attended Stanford University for economics and there was a legal dispute with her family’s land. It was this dispute that got her interested in law.

After being repeatedly turned down for suitable positions with various law firms, Sandra Day O’Connor went to the public sector and became a deputy county attorney for San Mateo, California. Then in 1953, her husband was drafted into the US Army as a judge and for three years they lived in West Germany where she became a civilian attorney for the army. When they returned to the US in 1957, Sandra Day O’Connor settled down in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and began to start a family. Over the next six years, they had three children.

In 1969, after serving as an assistant attorney general for Arizona for a few years, O’Connor was appointed to the Arizona State Senate to occupy a vacant seat. She then been elected and reelected to the seat and was the first woman ever to hold the position of majority leader in a state senate. In 1974, O’Connor was elected to a superior court judgeship in Maricopa County in Arizona and then in in 1979, she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Then on July 7, 1981, President Reagan fulfilled his campaign promise of putting a woman on the US Supreme court by nominating O’Connor. She faced a lot of opposition from anti-abortion groups and from Liberals who heralded her nomination but were concerned about some of her views. O’Connor was finally sworn in on September 25, 1981 and held the seat until her retirement in 2006. It was a groundbreaking achievement for a ground breaking woman with a never say die attitude.

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