Sandra Day O’Connor, Trailblazer For Women On Supreme Court, Dies

( – Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, has died at the age of 93. An announcement from the Court said O’Connor died in Phoenix from “complications related to advanced dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, and a respiratory illness.”

Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, O’Connor resigned from the bench in 2006 to care for her ailing husband, who was suffering from dementia. In 2018, she announced she had been diagnosed with the same illness.

Born in El Paso, Texas, in 1930, Sandra Day grew up on a large ranch in Arizona. She graduated with a law degree from Stanford University in 1952 but struggled to find employment at law firms that told her, “We don’t hire women.” Before appointing her to the highest legal bench in the nation, President Reagan said she was a “woman of great legal intellect, fairness, and integrity.” The Court’s first female Justice would go on to hold the deciding vote in some of its most significant judgments.

Justice Day O’Connor was known as a “swing vote” in the Supreme Court, meaning she was considered neither hardline left nor right wing. In 2000, the US Presidential election fell to the Supreme Court to decide, and O’Connor’s vote would determine whether George W. Bush or Al Gore entered the White House. Florida state law demanded a recount when Bush edged through by 1,784 votes, and when the Floridian Supreme Court ordered a second manual recount, Bush appealed to the Supreme Court to stop it. O’Connor ruled in his favor, and Bush became President.

While lauded by many as a groundbreaker for women, O’Connor explicitly rejected the feminist label and famously remarked, “A wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion.” Her former clerk, Andrew McBride, said, “She wasn’t ideological. She didn’t champion any one judicial philosophy.” His analysis is supported by her decision-making, in which she sometimes agreed with conservative arguments and sometimes with liberals.

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