Sandra Day O’Connor: First Woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court

March 26, 2013

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.) was born on this date, March 26th in 1930. She went on to become the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court! Today there are three women that hold the title ‘U.S. Supreme Court Justice’ - can you name all three*?

The appointment of Justice O’Connor to the Supreme Court in 1981 was one of many milestones achieved for women in the United States. Here are a few more:

  1. The 19th amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, giving women the right to vote after a long and hard fight by the suffragettes.
  2. The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor was established in the 1920 to monitor working conditions for women and improving their opportunities in the workplace.
  3. The shortage of male workers during World War II resulted in 7 million women entering the workforce in the early 1940s, changing the labor landscape forever.

You’d think after these developments it wouldn’t be too hard to set up shop as a woman lawyer. Despite having excelled in her studies at Stanford University, Justice O’Connor could not find a job at a law firm  right out of law school. There had been a number of female lawyers in the U.S. before the 1950’s, but law firms in California did not hire women, unless they were secretaries! She did find a position as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California which set her on a path that would include serving in all three branches of government at the local, state, and national level.

In honor of Justice O’Connor paving the way for the many women that will surely follow in her footsteps, we gathered several teaching resources for this month’s commemoration of Women’s History Month:

  1.    The Library of Congress’ official Women’s History Month page and their profile on Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
  2.    The Women’s Legal History Biography Project
  3.    PBS.org’s The Supreme Court

* The current female justices are Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor