Sandra Day O'Connor, First Female Judge Of US Supreme Court, Passes Away At 93
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to be appointed as a Justice to the US Supreme Court, passed away yesterday of complications related to dementia and respiratory illness. In a press release by the US Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G Roberts Jr. remembered Justice O'Connor as an “eloquent advocate of civic education”, saying that she blazed a historic trail as...
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to be appointed as a Justice to the US Supreme Court, passed away yesterday of complications related to dementia and respiratory illness.
In a press release by the US Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G Roberts Jr. remembered Justice O'Connor as an “eloquent advocate of civic education”, saying that she blazed a historic trail as the nation's first female Justice.
A rancher's daughter, Justice O'Connor was born in Texas and grew up in Arizona. She graduated from Stanford University, where she obtained degrees in economics and law.
It was at the University that she met her husband John Jay O'Connor III, whom she married after graduating in 1952.
Although her professional career saw a slow start, Justice O'Connor was one of the most powerful women in US history.
She initially worked as a Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County in California, which job did not earn her a penny for months and involved sharing desk space with a secretary.
Subsequently, she served as Assistant Attorney General of Arizona from 1965 to 1969 and became the first woman to serve as Majority Leader of a State Senate (Arizona).
After two terms at the Senate, Justice O'Connor served on the Maricopa County Superior Court, and then went on to the Arizona State Court of Appeals.
In 1981, she was appointed to the US Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan, where she served as a Justice for 24 years. Called by President Reagan “the anti-thesis of an ideologic judge”, Justice O'Connor's nomination was approved by the Senate by a vote of 99-0 (the one vote missed was of a member who absented on account of illness).
Till this time, the US Supreme Court had been an all-male institution for over one and a half century.
At the time of nominating her to the Supreme Court, President Reagan had said that Justice O'Connor was "truly a person for all seasons, possessing those unique qualities of temperament, fairness, intellectual capacity, and devotion to the public good which have characterized the 101 brethren who have preceded her".
During her tenure, Justice O'Connor's was the deciding vote in many controversial cases, including those on abortion, affirmative action, etc. Among her most notable contributions was the decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which reaffirmed women's right to abortion.
Justice O'Connor is also believed to have been the deciding vote in Bush v. Gore in 2000, which placed US President George W Bush in the White House.
She remained the only female Justice of the US Supreme Court until the appointment of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
Justice O'Connor retired in 2006 to care for her ailing husband, who eventually passed in 2009. The same year, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, US' highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama.
Through an open letter in 2018, Justice O'Connor revealed that she had been diagnosed with dementia, whereafter she withdrew from public life.
"As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert, I never could have imagined that one day I would become the first woman justice on the US Supreme Court", she wrote.