Sandra Day O’Connor


Ms. O’Connor retired from the bench in 2006 to care for her ailing husband who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. He died three years later and that same year she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.  Sandra was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. She was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 she served the country dutifully for 24 years taking care to weigh the issues carefully and independently making her the swing vote in many cases. Two notable cases were the upholding of Roe v. Wade and the Bush v. Gore case in 2000 which upheld Florida’s electoral votes allowing Bush to become President. She was also a breast cancer survivor and the mother of three sons, Scott, Brian and Jay.

Sandra achieved her degree in economics from Stanford in 1950 and after graduating she was the kind of girl that worked for free at a law firm “to get her foot in the door” because opportunities for female lawyers were absent. (She was turned down by several law firms). During her tenure at Stanford she met and dated, William Rehnquist, who later became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and they served together often voting the same although there are statistics folks that will tell you the percentages of Right vs. Left votes since the beginning of the Judicial Branch.  Those people need to calm down.

She began her own law firm with one partner and then eventually took leave from her post to be a mom. During the five years she took to be with her young sons, she also volunteered with local schools, hospitals and her local Republican party.

She has written several books including Lazy B: Growing Up a Cattle Rancher in the American Southwest, published in 2003.  This year she published her judicial memoir The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (2013).

Watch Sandra Day O’Connor on PBS. See more from Makers: Women Who Make America.