The past months I’ve focused on how the law affects women. Today, I’d like to dedicate my article to a woman whom I’ve admired for a long time, Sandra Day O’Connor. She was the first woman to become a member of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Not too shabby, huh?
July 7, 1981 marked a change in history. President Reagan nominated O’Connor, keeping his promise of appointing the first female member of Court. O’Connor’s nomination was opposed by some groups, especially pro-life groups. They argued that she would vote in favor of upholding Roe v. Wade. But (this is something that I always remember of her) she played her cards right, never explicitly mentioning whether she was for or against abortion. She was a smart cookie!
A couple of months later, on September 21st, she was confirmed by the Senate.
Of course, O’Connor’s battle had only just begun. Even when a life changing event had passed, America still seemed unable to grasp the concept that a woman had managed to make her mark in a ‘man’s’ world. Two years after she was confirmed, newspapers were still describing the Supreme Court as the “nine men”. Politicians and the media still depicted the Court as driven by solely men. Now, I can’t say whether it was carelessness from their part or if they purposely wanted to ensure that people knew men still dominated; but, I can say that these barriers were the ones Justice O’Connor had to overcome.
Within the Court, O’Connor was the deciding vote in many cases, some of which were high profile. These include: Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000)-she determined that the Boy Scouts of New Jersey had the authority to discriminate based on sexual orientation; Bush v. Gore (2000)-basically, determined that Gore lost the presidential election; Lawrence v. Texas (2003)-she wrote the concurring opinion (describes majority opinion, but has emphasis on a particular judge’s reasoning, in this case O’Connor’s) which stated that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was violated. In other words, she might have been the only woman in the Supreme Court, but she was an (if not the) important piece to the judiciary system during her time.
Sadly, O’Connor retired in 2006. She remains active by giving speeches at noteworthy universities such as Georgetown and her alma mater, Stanford. She maintains that it is a great honor as well as a great responsibility to be a Supreme Court Justice. She speaks highly of her job and states that it is not easy at all to interpret the law the way the law was written and not to interpret the law the way congressmen want them to be interpreted. It’s amazing to see the achievements this woman has accumulated under her belt. She’s truly an inspiration for millions of women like me who wish to make a difference in the legal world.
The Woman Behind the Legal World Section:
Christina Ontiveros is an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. She is double majoring in Legal Studies and Anthropology, and is an excellent and dedicated student. She is passionate and loyal; we can all count ourselves lucky that one day she might just be our lawyer!