5 Things You Didn't Know About Sandra Day O'Connor

On September 25, 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor was sworn in as the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court after being confirmed by a 99-0 vote in the U.S. Senate. Here are five facts you might not know about Sandra Day O’Connor’s life and career...


O’Connor Grew Up on a Ranch O’Connor grew up on her grandfather’s big desert ranch that straddled the borders of Arizona and New Mexico in a house with only one bedroom and without running water. The family raised cattle and repaired wells for a living, and with the closest neighbor 25 miles distant, she grew up around cowboys. She was a typical country girl, riding horses, branding cattle, and shooting a rifle and even had a bobcat named Bob as a pet.

It Was Hard for Her to Find a Job After Graduation In 1950, when O’Connor was 20, she entered law school at Stanford University, and there were only four women enrolled in the class. She was third in her class upon graduation, and while her male classmates had no problems finding jobs, she said she couldn’t even get anyone to speak to her. In a later interview, she said if she had realized how difficult it would be for a female lawyer to find a job, she would have considered taking another career path.


She Entered Politics in Arizona in 1969 O’Connor was in private practice in Arizona and served as assistant attorney general from 1965 to 1969. Afterward, she was a member of the Arizona State Senate from 1969 to 1974 and served as the majority leader. Following her election as a judge in the Superior Court of Maricopa County, Arizona, she worked in Phoenix as a judge with the Court of Appeals. In 1981, President Reagan offered her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill a vacancy left by retiring Justice Potter Stewart.

President Reagan Was Keeping a Promise When He Appointed Her When Ronald Reagan was campaigning during the 1980 presidential election, he promised to nominate a female to the U.S. Supreme Court. This was a promise made in an effort to increase his support by female voters, and he kept his word in 1981 by appointing O’Connor. Following her swearing-in ceremony, O’Connor served in the Supreme Court 24 years.

O'Connor Played Basketball at the Supreme Court O’Connor enjoyed opportunities to exercise and took over the basketball court in the Supreme Court building that was located over the courtroom. Some of the female secretaries and clerks wanted to exercise too, so O’Connor made a reservation at the gym and brought in an aerobics teacher from a nearby YWCA. Classes for the women were held daily and attendees were presented with custom made t-shirts saying “Women Work Out at the Supreme Court.”