Today we reflect on the life and legacy of Sandra Day O’Connor, who was the first woman to become a Supreme Court Justice.
She was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 and unanimously confirmed by the Senate. After serving nearly twenty-five years, she retired in 2006.
“As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it,” she observed in 1990.
O’Connor grew up working cattle on her family’s Lazy B Ranch near Duncan, Arizona. She graduated near the top of her class at Stanford before serving in the Arizona State Senate (1969-74).
In 1972, she was elected as majority leader, making her the first woman in the U.S. to hold the top position in a state legislature. While on the nation’s highest court, O’Connor developed a reputation as a pragmatic, swing vote, preferring to making her judgements on a case-by-case basis.
In 2013, the National Portrait Gallery acquired “The Four Justices” portrait. O’Connor sat in the portrait alongside the other women in the Supreme Court: Elena Sagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
To celebrate this portrait’s arrival, video journalist Jan Smith sat down with each of the four justices and asked them to tell their own story. You can watch the full video about Justice O’Connor here: https://bit.ly/3Tov6nx
🖼️ : "Sandra Day O'Connor" by Jean Marcellino, 2006. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 2008, Jean Marcellino
National Portrait Gallery USA
Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum