For Women’s History Month, Staci Glenn celebrates the woman who was directly responsible for her law career.
It boggles the mind that during my lifetime, there were no – zip, zilch, nada – women on the U.S. Supreme Court. Although RBG deservedly receives a ton of press and discussion, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court was directly responsible for my law career. That woman is Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
When I was 10 years old, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor as a Justice of the Supreme Court. That understandably received a lot of media attention, and I asked my mother to tell my why. After she explained the significance, I declared right then that I would be the first black woman on the Supreme Court.
Thus began my love of the law. I followed Justice O’Connor’s career and continued on my course to become a lawyer. Though she frequently sided with the conservative justices, Justice O’Connor stuck to her guns and became the “swing vote” in many opinions, placing rights above politics. Justice O’Connor retired in 2006 in order to care for her ailing husband. While some women would find that to be an anti-feminist move, I disagree; she made the right decision for herself, which is what feminism is all about. (This did not diminish my disappointment that a man was chosen to replace her on the Court.)
Eventually I realized that because I am the least political person one can imagine, it would be difficult for me to become a Justice on the Supreme Court. Yet I persevered to become the best lawyer I could be. I also made the decision to support women judges who are more comfortable with the fundraising and glad-handing required to ascend to the bench.
Of course, as I matured, I realized that it was not important that I be the first black woman to reach the Supreme Court, only that a black woman did. Today, there are three women justices on the Supreme Court. When I was 10, I never dreamed that in 2021, none of those justices would look like me. Clearly, there is still work to be done.
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