Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History, Volume XIV

Wednesday, August 20, 2008
This is Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The daughter of Harry Alfred Day and Ada Mae Wilkey, she grew up on a cattle ranch in southeastern Arizona. She attended Stanford University in Stanford, California where she received her B.A. in economics in 1950. She continued at the Stanford Law School for her LL.B, serving on the Stanford Law Review, and graduating toward the top of a class of 102. She married John O'Connor in 1952, with whom she had three children.

In spite of her impressive career at law school, no law firm in California was willing to hire her as a lawyer, although one firm did offer her a position as a legal secretary. She therefore went into public service, taking a variety of positions in the public sector.

On July 7, 1981, President Reagan, who had pledged during the 1980 presidential campaign to appoint the first woman to the Supreme Court, nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, replacing the retiring Potter Stewart.

During her tenure on the SCOTUS, Justice O'Connor became the "swing vote" for many major cases, mostly due to her case-by-case approach to jurisprudence and her relatively moderate political views.

Justice O'Connor is one of my personal heroes. She was appointed when I was just about to turn 16 - a time where women were breaking barriers all over the country. She was moderate, thoughtful, and generally appeared to consider her duty to the Constitution more important than any political ramifications. She had a balanced life, and didn't give up who she was and what she wanted to accommodate other people's ideas of who should was supposed to be. She overcame personal adversity while sitting on the SCOTUS, and maintained her dignity and integrity.

When I grow up, I want to be Sandra Day O'Connor. Well-played, Justice O'Connor. Ill-behaved and admirable.

5 comments:

Steve Buchheit said...

And Justice O'Conner was a middle of the road conservative. She didn't change her positions, that shows how far the country skewed to the right at the end of the 80s. I've heard several interviews with her after she left the bench. Damn smart woman.

Eric said...

My all-time favorite Supreme Court Justice. Lucid, balanced, thoughtful: even when I disagreed with her (and as a liberal, I frequently did), I knew why I disagreed and I respected the way she'd thought things through to get to her conclusion. (As opposed, say, to the usual Scalia opinion, where I often find myself baffled and befuddled even when I agree with the outcome, e.g. Scalia's Fourth Amendmen jurisprudence).

She's a helluva woman, Justice Sandy is. I wish she was still on the bench, tho' I even respect her for standing down while still in her prime so she could take care of family concerns.

Carol Elaine said...

Excellent choice indeed, Janiece. Justice O'Connor did indeed rock the Supreme Court.

Janiece Murphy said...

Sandra Day O'Conner is my senior same-sex girlfriend. Along with Dame Helen, of course.

Rock the Court, Justice Sandy!

Jeri said...

O'Connor is amazing - she is one of my heroes. Thanks for summarizing her story!