Sandra Day O'Connor: First woman Supreme Court Judge

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 10th Jul 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

Sandra Day O"Connor was the first woman Supreme Court Judge. An important step women of her generation.

Sandra Day O'Connor

We finished off with the 1970's and the feminist movement. Now will proceed to the women of the 1980's and their contributions to the betterment of womanhood in America. The third wave of feminism will be addressed in later articles as it surfaced in the mid 80's and the 1990's.

As time goes by we will also take a look at a French icon who was instrumental in the women's movement not only in France but also in Canada and American alike. Finally we will look at the plight of the Eastern women women and their unique issues as well.

So back to the topic at hand, instrumental women of the 1980's.

Today's selection is Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor was born in 1930, in El Paso,Texas. Her father was a rancher by the name of Harry Alfred Day; her mother was Ada Mae Wilkey. Sandra lived on a ranch with her maternal grandmother. As a child she attended public schools and then a private school called The Radford School For Girls.

She went on to Stanford University to obtain a bachelors of Art degree in economics in 1950. She then continued on to get a second bachelors degree, this time in Law at the Stanford Law School. She also wrote for the Stanford Law Review at this time.

The Stanford Law Review is world renowned for its excellence. The Stanford Law Review is published by Stanford students and features current articles on law written by students, professors, lawyers, judges, and such famous people as Sandra Day O'Connor herself, former, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and Warren Christopher the 63rd American Secretary of State.

Husband with Alzheimer's disease

Sandra married John O'Connor in 1952, and had three sons with him. John suffered from Alzheimer disease for the last 20 years of his life.
Because of her husband's illness she became actively involved in promoting Alzheimer awareness. CNN did a story on her in 2007, detailing the difficult time her family had while her husband could not longer remember his own family and formed much deeper attachments with the people he saw every day at the institution where he resided during his illness.

Again, in November of that year, the New York Times published and article entitled Seized By Alzheimer's, Then Love, depicting how the family was at peace with the fact that her husband was content, even though he suffered from this condition. John O'Connor, her husband of 55 years died on Nov 11, 2009 at the age of 79.

Sandra Day O'Conner's Legal and Political Career

After graduating even though she was well qualified with her law credentials, no law firm in California would hire her because she was a woman. One California firm was willing to accept her as a legal secretary, which was below her level of education. however, this was a job that women were lucky enough to have back in the 1950's in California.

Sandra would not settle for a dead-end job, she was ambitious and wanted to have an inspiring career in law. She did however, turn her focus for awhile to public affairs rather than private practice. She became the Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California from 1952-1953. She then emigrated to Frankfort am Main, Germany while her husband was in the military and became a civilian attorney for the Quartermaster Market Center Corps from 1954 -1957.

Sandra Day O'Connor - Career

Sandra Day O'Connor's Legal and Political Career

Sandra Day O'Connor came back to America after he stay in Germany and from 1958 -1960 she practiced law in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona called Maryvale. Sandra then became the Assistant Attorney General of Arizona and served from 1965 to 1969.

She was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969, and served two terms of two years each. By 1973, she had become the majority leader. From 1975 to 1979, she served as Arizona's Maricopa County Supreme Court Judge. Sandra Day O'Connor was truly a rising star. In 1979 she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

President Ronald Reagan pledged to appoint the first woman Supreme Court Judge and he honored his pledge. On July 7, 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor was nominated as the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. However, this nomination was not without its controversy. The antiabortion and religious groups were against her nomination. Pro family republicans would not support her nomination.

Sandra did not make her views public on this issue at this time. Though she had voted to repeal the Arizona's state criminal abortion law in 1970, and she voted against a measure to prohibit abortions in Arizona hospitals in 1974.

Despite all the flack, Sandra Day O'Connor was confirmed by the senate with a vote of 99 to 0. Within the first year of office she received 66,000 letters which was the most any supreme court judge had ever received.

According to Hanna Rosin of the Washington Post, because Sandra Day O'Connor was the head woman lawyer in America and the First woman supreme court justice, this alone seals her place in women's history and feminism. She, according to this author would never be a "feminists feminist" because she put her career on hold for family obligations.

As a feminist,I believe that everything we do as women is important. Being nurturers has always been part of who we are. I see nothing wrong with her decision. It may not have been the decision of every women put in her powerful position, but it was the right decision for her.

The bigger issue was where exactly did she stand on women issues. She was in support of the issues concerning abortion and affirmative action yet, voted down the Violence Against Women Act. So where did she stand?

She seemed to be a women who did not take up the feminist cause, but she stuck to legal facts and juriprudence deciding everything on a case by case basis. The National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority group still supported O'Connor even though she did not always come through for them.

O'Connor was said to have a unique feminine perspective, using moderation instead of confrontation and valuing the community over the individual. Montreal women like that about her. Some felt that the perspective coined "difference feminism" by feminist Carol Gilligan, in which she proposed that men and women tackle issues differently and write with a different style, fit the style of O'Connor.

However, there were feminists that disagreed with this view point including Montreal feminists, arguing that "difference feminism" could not account for the views of a conservative woman. Even Sandra rejected this "difference feminism" theory. She stated, "This 'new feminism' is interesting, but troubling, precisely because it so nearly echoes the Victorian myth of the 'True Woman' that kept women out of law for so long, Asking whether women attorneys speak with 'a different voice' than men do, is a question that is both dangerous and unanswerable."

All photos taken from the public domain

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Feminism, First Woman Supreme Court Judge, Sandra Day Oconnor, Women In Government, Women In Politics, Women Lawmakers, Women Lawyers, Women Senators

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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