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Sandra Day O'Connor

With the recent appointments of Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, it shows that 30 years after Sandra Day O'Connor's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court it is now possible for young girls to see examples of distinguished women who work not only as teachers, nurses or secretaries but also in the higher positions of U.S. government. This is particularly true for Hispanic-American women with the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the bench.

Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor

Prior to Sandra Day O'Connor's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, we were in the middle of the third wave of feminism which started around the mid-1960s, and more women entered traditionally male-dominated fields such as business, law, academia, print and broadcast journalism, and even politics. These fields were usually a good-ole-boys clubs that didn't favor women's entry into them for decades.

But even as more women entered the workforce and as abortion became legal in the United States in 1973, it didn't mean that the struggle for women's rights ended. But Sandra Day O'Connor's appointment showed the nation that we were ready to allow women the opportunity to serve in highest levels of government.

Sandra Day O' Connor was born on March 26, 1930 in El Paso, Texas. Her father was Harry Alfred Day and mother was Ada Mae Day. She and her family grew up on a ranch and while her parents taught her the importance of hard work, they also wanted her to have a good education so that she'd succeed in life as an adult.

In 1946, Sandra Day O' Connor graduated from Austin High School and in 1950 she received her bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University. Sandra went on to attend Stanford Law School and she served on the Stanford Law Review along with future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. In 1952, she married John Jay O'Connor and they had three children including Scott, Brian and Jay.

In Sandra Day O'Connor's early career, many law firms would not hire her because she was a woman. She persisted and the hard work paid off when she became the Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County from 1952-1953. From 1965-1969 she served as Assistant Attorney General of Arizona and in 1969 she was appointed to the Arizona State Senate and was reelected to this position as a Republican to two two-year terms.

In 1975, she was elected judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court. In 1979 Sandra was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals where she remained until her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981 by Ronald Reagan.

One of Sandra Day O'Connor's key decisions while on the Supreme Court was the 1982 Mississippi University for Women vs. Hogan case, where she decided that it was unconstitutional for a state nursing school to refuse to admit male students. In the U.S. vs. Eichman case in 1990, she concluded that the burning of the American flag is protected by the First Amendment.

There was also the 1985 Wallace vs. Jaffree case, in which she decided that moments of silence in public schools are constitutional. In the famous Planned Parenthood vs. Casey case in 1992, she challenged the 1982 Abortion Control Act in Pennsylvania, which required married women to inform their husbands before getting an abortion and minors to inform their parents before getting an abortion.

She felt that these aspects of the law violated women's privacy rights regarding an abortion. Finally, there was the incident in 2000 when she and her fellow Supreme Court justices stopped the recount of votes in Florida during the presidential campaign of Al Gore and George W. Bush. This resulted in George W. Bush's election to the presidency in 2000. Sandra Day O'Connor retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 breaking the glass ceiling and being reknowned as one of the most famous women in recent U. S. political history.

There is a secret you don't know …

Besides the factual Sandra Day O' Connor biography presented above there is one small secret about the former Supreme Court Justice that you may not have heard about. This secret is that Sandra Day O' Connor once had a vivid dream yelling at actor Jack Nicholson, shaking him and telling him, "You can't handle the truth!"


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