Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Before she was a lawyer and judge though, she was a rough-riding cowgirl, capable of shooting rabbits for a meal.
- Sandra Day O’Connor was born in 1930 in El Paso, Texas. She grew up on a huge cattle ranch (198,000 acres) in Duncan, Arizona. The ranch was nine miles from a paved road and the home had neither electricity nor running water.
- Sandra knew how to ride horses, herd cattle, and use a .22 rifle. She learned to drive a truck as soon as she could see over the dashboard.
- She spent winters with her grandmother in El Paso where she attended a private girls’ school. No school existed near the ranch in Arizona.
- She studied economics and law at Stanford University, and gained her law degree in 1952.
- She married John Jay O’Connor III, a fellow student at Stanford, the same year. They had three boys.
- Even though Sandra was at the top of her class in college, she had trouble getting a job as a lawyer because she was a woman.
- She finally got a job as a deputy county attorney in California. She offered to work for no pay or no office, sharing space with a secretary.
- Later, Sandra served as the assistant attorney general for Arizona, and was given a vacant seat in the Arizona Senate. In 1973, she became Majority Leader in the Arizona Senate, the first woman to have such an office in the U.S.
- Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1981, where she served until she retired in 2006.
- Dashboard: the front portion of a vehicle beneath the windshield
- Supreme Court: the highest court in America
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What did Sandra do after she retired from the Supreme Court?
Answer: Sandra continued to volunteer her time for political organizations. She was a professor and she wrote several books. She cared for her husband who had Alzheimer’s until his death in 2009. She stopped appearing publicly in 2018 because she also has Alzheimer’s.
Watch a video about Sandra Day O’Connor.
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Tobin, Declan. (2020). Facts about Sandra Day O’Connor - American History. American History for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.americanhistoryforkids.com/sandra-day-oconnor/