1981 July 7

President Reagan Nominates Sandra Day O’Connor as First Woman For the Supreme Court


Sandra Day O’Connor, nominated on this day by President Ronald Reagan, became the first woman on the Supreme Court. As a candidate for president, Reagan had promised to appoint a woman to the Court, but most Democrats dismissed the promise as a cynical campaign ploy. Her nomination was opposed mainly by anti-abortion activists because she did not oppose abortion reform measures while she was an Arizona state legislator in the 1970s.

Once on the Court, O’Connor played the key role in forging a centrist coalition that included Justices David Souter and Anthony Kennedy. The coalition was most important in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision (June 29, 1992) that helped preserve Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973), which established a Constitutional right to an abortion. After O’Connor retired, Justice Kennedy became aligned with the conservative block of the Court, which gave conservatives a 5-4 majority in a number of key cases.

Read: Joan Biskupic, Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice (2005)

Don’t miss: Linda Hirshman, Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World (2015)

View a 2009 Sandra Day O’Connor Lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoHM1aoAp4U\

Read: Sandra Day O’Connor, The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (2003)

Learn more about Sandra Day O’Connor: http://www.supremecourt.gov/visiting/SandraDayOConnor.aspx

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