Anniversary: O’Connor continues influence after 30 years

Sandra Day O’Connor in 2010THURSDAY, JULY 7: It was 30 years ago today that President Ronald Reagan announced he was nominating Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female justice on the United States Supreme Court, thereby fulfilling a pledge and rewriting the court’s all-male history.

Sandra Day O’Connor, born on a cattle ranch in 1930 and raised with every intention of continuing her family’s business, made her way to the U.S. Supreme Court and served there for 24 years. (Wikipedia has details.) Today, O’Connor continues to speak publicly and recently delivered a keynote forum at the Wayne State University Law School on the consideration of alternate ways of choosing Michigan Supreme Court justices. (Read more at The South End.)

O’Connor attended schools in Texas until she was accepted at Stanford University, where she continued on to the Stanford Law School and finished law school a year early. Unfortunately, O’Connor’s gender prevented her from receiving a position at any law firm in California, so she changed paths and was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969. O’Connor’s career in Arizona state government continued until 1981, when she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Sept. 21. Throughout her first year, O’Connor received more than 60,000 letters from the public—more than any other justice in American history. (PBS published an article on O’Connor’s life.)

In 2001, O’Connor was ranked the second-most-powerful woman in America by the Ladies’ Home Journal; and was ranked the sixth-most-powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine in 2004. (The New York Times reported on her resignation in 2005.) O’Connor received the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian honor in the U.S.—by President Barack Obama in 2009, and to date, she remains the last Supreme Court justice to have held elected office.

Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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