Dec 01, 2023

Honoring the Life, Legacy of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Center for Women in Law Leaders Reflect on Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day WPS

AUSTIN, TEXAS (Dec. 1, 2023) –The Center for Women in Law is grateful for the leadership and service of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on our country’s highest court.

As the first female appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor quickly became a symbol of the experiences of so many women in the legal profession. The Center honors her life and legacy.

As Justice Kagan once remarked on her predecessor’s impact on the high court, Justice O’Connor “demonstrated extraordinary wisdom that understood something about this nation, about the people who inhabit it, what they would and would not stand for, about what their best values were, and she did this over and over again. And really we are such a better nation because of that.”

The Center for Women in Law is grateful for the contributions of iconic, influential women leaders like Justice O’Connor, who embody our Center’s mission, inspire our work, and motivate us to continue to press for a legal profession that reflects equity and justice for all.

Founding members and leaders of the Center for Women in Law commented on the passing of Justice O’Connor:

“The thought of a woman on the U.S. Supreme Court seemed distant, almost unfathomable, before President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to our nation’s highest court. Justice O’Connor defied the odds and broke barriers, opening the door to appointing more women to the U.S. Supreme Court and inspiring girls like me to pursue careers in law. ” – Veronica Vargas Stidvent, Executive Director, Center for Women in Law

“Upon learning of her passing, the pivotal role Justice O’Connor played on the Court immediately came to mind. Like the Center for Women in Law, Justice O’Connor did her part to ensure that the legal profession exemplifies equity and justice for all. Although she never wore the feminist moniker publicly, her written opinions reflect a deep commitment to ensuring fairness and equity in American society. Justice O’Connor was not just the key vote, but she also authored several landmark decisions which undoubtedly helped other women lawyers succeed in the legal profession.” – Cisselon Nichols Hurd, Senior Legal Counsel, Shell Oil; Executive Committee President, Center for Women in Law

“I met Justice O’Connor when she was Outstanding Ex at my high school in the Fall of 1980, months away from becoming the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice. At the assembly where she was recognized, she led the student body in a cheer. I learned a valuable lesson from her at a young age: you can be brilliant and successful and still be fun and kind.” – Hilda Galvan, Partner-in-Charge, Jones Day; Executive Committee Member, Center for Women in Law

“Justice O’Connor became a judge two years before I joined the judiciary.  Although she was serious about her work, her good humor and gracious informality put others at ease and helped break down barriers.  As a young female judge, I followed her example, leading to my acceptance in what was then a mostly male world.” – Marilyn Aboussie, Chief Justice (Ret.); Executive Committee Member, Center for Women in Law

“Justice O’Connor played an important and impactful role in the launch of the Center for Women in Law, as she was one of our keynote speakers at our inaugural Women’s Power Summit. She was inspirational, applauded our efforts, and encouraged us to make meaningful change. It was an electric moment I will never forget.” – Nina Cortell, Founding Member


Sandra Day O’Connor, pathbreaking woman on Supreme Court, dies at 93

Sandra Day O’Connor, First Woman on the Supreme Court, Is Dead at 93