Sandra Day O'Connor
to Henry and Ada May Day on March 26, 1930, in El Paso, Texas, O'Connor
spent her early years on her parents' 155,000-acre ranch, known
as Lazy B, in southeastern Arizona. O'Connor grew up as a "child
of the frontier" -- her first house that had no running water
or electricity, she learned how to brand steer and became the household
handywoman. At age 5, she was sent to live with her grandmother
in El Paso where she attended the Radford private school for girls
and then later Austin High School.
graduating from high school at 16, O'Connor enrolled at Stanford
University in 1946, majoring in economics and graduating magna
cum laude in 1950. She continued on to law school at Stanford,
finishing at the top of her class in just two years. One of her
fellow classmates was future Supreme Court Chief Justice William
Rehnquist. In the class below hers was John Jay O'Connor, the
man Sandra would marry in 1952.
Served as an Arizona state senator and elected majority leader
Elected and served as judge of the Maricopa County Superior
Appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals
25, 1981: Took her seat on the U.S. Supreme Court
1, 2005: Announced her retirement from the Supreme Court
it hard to obtain a job as a lawyer because of her sex, O'Connor
took a job as deputy attorney general for San Mateo County, California.
When her husband was drafted into the Judge Advocate General Corps
in 1953, the couple moved to Frankfurt, Germany, where O'Connor
served as the civilian attorney Quartermaster Market Center from
returning to the United Sates, the O'Connors settled in Phoenix,
Ariz. Sandra started her own practice in Maryvale, Ariz., but
spent most of her time rearing her three sons Scott, Brian, and
Jay Jr. But when not taking care of her children or practicing
law, O'Connor served as a bankruptcy trustee, established a lawyer
referral service, served on a county zoning appeal board as well
as a governor's committee on marriage and family, volunteered
for the Salvation Army and became an active member of the Republican
Party, serving as district chair.
1965, O'Connor returned to work full time, taking a position as
an assistant attorney general of Arizona. Three years later, Arizona
Gov. Jack Williams appointed her to a vacant seat in the state
Senate. There, O'Connor was known for her attention to factual
accuracy and a voting record that ranged from the moderate to
the conservative. In 1972, O'Connor was the first woman elected
served as a state senator until 1974 when she was elected judge
of the Maricopa County Superior Court. Then in 1979 O'Connor was
appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Reagan nominated O'Connor to associate justice of the Supreme
Court in July 1981 when Potter Stewart retired, fulfilling a campaign
promise to nominate a woman. O'Connor was unanimously confirmed
by the U.S. Senate and took her seat Sept. 25, 1981. The day of
her confirmation, she said, "My hope is that ten years from
now, after I've been across the street at work for a while, they'll
all be glad they gave me that wonderful vote." O'Connor was
the first appointee in 24 years with prior service on a state
court and the first in 32 years with legislative experience.
O'Connor was a strong conservative, siding with Justices Warren
Burgher and Rehnquist on 62 of 84 opinions, but she tended to
be more lenient on freedom of information matters. O'Connor disappointed
pro-choice advocates when she supported the minority opinion to
uphold a series of local laws curbing women's access to abortion.
Yet she maintained a proclivity for feminist undertakings, founding
the Arizona Women Lawyers Association and the national Association
of Women Judges. Her most famous early opinion was Mississippi
University for Women v. Hogan (1982) in which the court held it
was unconstitutional for a state nursing school to refuse to admit
during the late 1980s and early '90s, O'Connor became more of
a moderate. She joined the majority in limiting preemptory challenges
to exclude minority jurors when the defendant is the same minority,
and she argued that if a crime is interracial, prospective jurors
could be questioned on racial bias if the death penalty was involved.
O'Connor also influenced the court's direction in cases involving
discrimination and harassment because of gender.
the last few years, O'Connor has become a key voice in a court
sharply divided between conservatives and liberals. In fact, the
Supreme Court was increasingly called the "O'Connor Court"
because of her tie-breaking votes in many of the legal body's
decisions. O'Connor is said to have a very deliberate judicial
method, taking each case on its own facts rather than seeing a
case for its broad implications or the law as an instrument of
has written two books "Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch
in the American Southwest" and "The Majesty of the Law:
Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice."