On September 25, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to be sworn in as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
President Reagan had nominated O’Connor earlier that summer, and he wrote in his White House diary, “Called Judge O’Connor in Ariz. and told her she was my nominee for Supreme Ct. Already the flack is starting and from my own supporters… I think she’ll make a good Justice.”
O’Connor helped inspire a generation of women to pursue careers in law—when she was appointed, thirty-six percent of law school students were women; by the time she retired from the court in 2006 that percentage had risen to forty-eight percent.
Last year, O’Connor spoke to a group of high school students at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley and told them:
“It was exciting to be the first, but I did not want to be the last.”
Photo: Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in as Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Her husband, John O’Connor looks on. 9/25/81.
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I was driving to my classes to community college when the radio news announced that Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to be our first female Supreme Court Justice. This was such a freaking huge deal that I started to cry. Had to pull over and have a righteous grrlpower boo-hoo, then drove to school, feeling a couple inches taller.