Sandra Day O’Connor’s impact on the view of women serving on the Supreme Court and her fight for human rights will forever be embedded into the history of the U.S.
Sandra Day O’Connor’s impact on the view of women serving on the Supreme Court and her fight for human rights will forever be embedded into the history of the U.S.
Photo Credit: Grace Callahan/Canva/Achona Online

The Legacy of Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the Justice who held the Court’s ideological center for over a generation, died Friday, December 1st, at the age of 93. Her cause of death was said to be related to complications of advanced dementia and respiratory illness. Justice O’Connor will forever be remembered as the woman who “blazed a historical trail as our nation’s first female justice,” said Chief Justice John Roberts.

Sandra Day O’Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930. She grew up on her family’s cattle ranch near Duncan, Arizona, surrounded by the beauty of the American West. Sandra was a trailblazer from a young age, showing determination and intelligence. She attended Stanford University both as an undergraduate and as a law student and was a member of the board of editors for the prestigious Stanford Law Review. O’Connor went on to graduate near the top of her class from Stanford’s law school in 1952 but was unable to get a job as a lawyer in California because of widespread discrimination against women at the time.  O’Connor was ultimately able to find full-time employment as an Assistant Attorney General in Arizona and later became a Superior Court Judge in Maricopa County, Arizona.

During the 1980 Presidential campaign, a Republican Presidential candidate promised to appoint a woman to the U.S. Supreme Court to gain more support from women voters.  Reagan kept his promise shortly after being elected President and appointed Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female Supreme Court Justice in July 1981. During her time on the Supreme Court, O’Connor played a crucial role in many vital decisions and was highly regarded as an independent thinker and a leader on the Court.  O’Connor was the deciding vote in many landmark, and sometimes controversial, Supreme Court decisions affecting civil rights, environmental protection, voting rights, and protection against discrimination. For example, in the case of Roe v. Wade, O’Connor joined four other Justices in a ruling that established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. 

Sandra Day O’Connor’s legacy is incredibly impactful. As the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, she broke barriers and paved the way for future generations of women in the legal field. Her presence on the Court challenged outdated views and stereotypes, showing that women can serve at the highest levels of our justice system. Her thoughtful and moderate approach marked Sandra’s tenure, earning her the respect of colleagues and the public. Through her trailblazing achievements, Sandra Day O’Connor has forever changed the perception of women serving on the Supreme Court, inspiring countless individuals to pursue their dreams and strive for equality. In recognition of her lifetime accomplishments, President Obama awarded Justice O’Connor the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


While O’Connor will be remembered for her groundbreaking career and role in landmark decisions, perhaps her greatest legacy was her courage. Despite graduating near the top of her class from Stanford Law, O’Connor couldn’t get a job in a law firm because of widespread discrimination against women in the legal profession. Rather than backing down in the face of discrimination and taking a job as a secretary – the only job available to women in law firms at the time – O’Connor kept fighting and ultimately found a way to serve in the legal field as a Judge in an Arizona County Court. From those humble beginnings, O’Connor went on to become one of the most respected Supreme Court Justices in our nation’s history and her courage inspired millions of women to pursue their dreams.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

For us to post your comment, please submit your name and email with the comment. Thanks!
All Achona Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *