Quick Takes With Sandra Day O'Connor

Architects of Change

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, answers eight questions about success, social convention and her website,

What inspired you early in life to pursue a path that was considered unconventional for women?

I had an undergraduate class at Stanford from an inspiring law professor. Because of him, I applied to law school, and I liked it very much. At the time I did not know how difficult it might be as a woman lawyer to get a job.

Do women need to conduct themselves more like men in order to succeed, or has society moved beyond that?

Yes, I think we now have a climate in which women can be women and still succeed in business.

You once said that it’s important to learn how to disagree agreeably. Are women better at this than men?

No. Everyone can learn to “disagree agreeably” when there is an honest difference of opinion.

What do you hope to achieve with your website,

The goal of the “Our Courts” website is to help restore some civics education to our schools.  It is teacher friendly and fun for the young people who use it and play the computer games.  It is targeted towards middle school aged youngsters.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known earlier in life?

That women can succeed in just about any endeavor.

What is the single best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Work hard at work worth doing.

When was the last time something surprised you?

Every day!

How do you feel about being considered a role model for young women?

I am pleased that my own career has given encouragement to young women everywhere.

Sandra Day O’Connor (Retired), Associate Justice, was born in El Paso, Texas, March 26, 1930. She married John Jay O’Connor III in 1952 and has three sons - Scott, Brian, and Jay. She received her B.A. and LL.B. from Stanford University. She served as Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California from 1952–1953 and as a civilian attorney for Quartermaster Market Center, Frankfurt, Germany from 1954–1957. From 1958–1960, she practiced law in Maryvale, Arizona, and served as Assistant Attorney General of Arizona from 1965–1969. She was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969 and was subsequently reelected to two two-year terms. In 1975 she was elected Judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court and served until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals. President Reagan nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat September 25, 1981. Justice O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court on January 31, 2006.

Photo by Dane Penland, Smithsonian Institution, courtesy of the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States. This photograph may not be used for any advertising or commercial endorsements purposes, or in any way which conveys a false impression of Supreme Court sponsorship or approval.

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