Sandra Day O’Connor

“Our purpose in life is to help others along the way.”

Sandra Day was born in 1930 and grew up on a remote cattle ranch in Arizona. For the first years of her life, her home had no running water or electricity! She grew up herding cattle and learned how to use a shotgun. She had a passion for reading. Her parents realized that educational opportunities were limited from their home, so she was sent to live with her grandmother in El Paso where she attended school.

She graduated high school at age 16 and was accepted into Stanford, where graduated at the top of her class with a Batchelor degree in economics. She entered Stanford Law School in 1952. She served on the Law Review, where she worked under future Supreme Court justice Wiliam Rehnquist. He moved on to a law career in Washington DC. Sandra Day, on the other hand, having graduated in the top 10% of her class, in 2 years instead of the usual 3, could not find a job as an attorney because of her gender. She was offered a job as a legal secretary but decided to volunteer as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California. This ultimately resulted in a small salary.

Sandra Day married John Jay O’Connor after graduation from law school. They settled in Arizona and raised three boys. O’Connor began her political career here, serving as assistant Attorney General, followed by a seat in the Arizona Senate.

Ronal Reagan nominated O’Connor to the Supreme Court in 1981, and when she was appointed, she became the FIRST WOMAN to achieve this outstanding accomplishment.  She served from 1981-2006, when she stepped down to spend time with her family.

During retirement, she realized an opportunity to teach young Americans about government and how they can participate. She created the iCivics interactive program in 2009 which engages 9 million middle school children every year.

She passed on December 1, 2023 at age 93. She was known for her clear thinking, endless energy, work ethic, and ability to balance family and career. One of her more notable attributes was the open respect that she showed to all individuals, even her dissenters. She would engage her colleagues on the Supreme Court to gather for lunch after their discussions.

The remarkable Woman was Ambitious in her pursuit of knowledge. When faced with challenges, she persevered and molded the situation into something more equitable. She lived a life of Virtue, and valued the Empowering opportunities when they arose. She is an inspiration for everyone. Her contributions will endure.

Text and photo credit of

Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn into Supreme Court by Chief Justice Warren Burger as her husband John look on.