Precedents

July 7, 1981


Despite ranking third in the Stanford Law class of 1952, the only law firm offer Sandra Day O’Connor received was for a position as legal secretary. She turned to the public sector and took a job as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, Calif.

After marrying a Stanford classmate, she resettled in Arizona to raise a family and start a private practice. In 1965, O’Connor became an assistant state attorney general and four years later was appointed to the Arizona Senate, eventually becoming the first woman to serve as majority leader of a state legislature.

After a short stint as an appellate judge, she was tapped by President Reagan to replace retiring Justice Potter Stewart, fulfilling a campaign promise to name the first woman to the Supreme Court. O’Connor stepped down in 2006, having served 24 years as a pivotal voice on an often divided court.

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