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Sandra Day O’Connor - First Female U.S. Justice

Guest Author - Vance Rowe

Sandra Day O’Connor was born on this day, March 26 in 1930. She was raised on a 155,000 acre ranch in Southwest Arizona that has been in her family since the early 1800’s and grew up to be a very powerful woman and the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court, She was appointed to the highest court in the country by then President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

In 1950, Sandra graduated with honors from Stanford University with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and then went on to law school. She earned her legum baccalaureus or LL.B, in two years and out of the one hundred two students in her class, she ranked number three. Also while at law school, she was an editor for the Stanford Law Review. Interestingly enough, one of her fellow editors and the top ranked person in her class was future Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. She married John Jay O’Connor shortly after her graduation and he was in a class below hers.

During her husband’s last year in law school, Sandra Day O’Connor took the job as San Mateo County deputy attorney. She tried to work for law firms in the private sector but they were not big on hiring female attorneys. You have to remember that this was back in the early 1950’s and women were not given the respect or the chances that they are given today. In 1953, her husband went to Frankfurt, Germany where he served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in the U.S. Army. Sandra went with him and she srved as a civilian lawyer for the Army Quartermaster Corps. and specialized in contracts for the Corps. When they returned to the states, they moved back to Arizona to the Maricopa County area of Phoenix. Then in 1957, Sandra Day and John O’Connor had their first of three children, all sons and all born within six years.

For many years, Sandra Day O’Connor worked in her own law firm with a partner and was very successful. Being very civic affairs mindful, Sandra Day O’Connor was on several boards and committees throughout Maricopa County. She served on the Governor’s Committee on Marriage and Family, volunteered for the Salvation Army and even worked for the Arizona State Hospital as an administrator. These are just a few things that she was active with. There are so many more that I didn’t mention here. Her career took a turn for the better in 1965 when she became the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Arizona and worked there until 1969. In 1969, she was appointed to a vacant seat in the Arizona Senate by the governor of Arizona. She served on he senate until 1974 when she was elected to the bench in the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Keeping to his word, in 1981, President Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to the United States Supreme Court. During his campaign for the presidency, he promised to appoint the first woman to the highest court in the land. She served as an associate jurist until she retired in 2006. Her husband of fifty-five years, John O’Connor succumbed due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease that he suffered with for the better part of twenty years.

While it’s true that Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court, she shattered “glass ceilings” for women throughout her illustrious career. She was a fair, yet tough jurist who looked out for women, women’s rights and family and minorities. Sandra Day O’Connor’s legacy will be unmatched by anyone.

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Content copyright © 2015 by Vance Rowe. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Vance Rowe. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Lane Graciano for details.


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