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Sandra Day O’Connor

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Uninscribed signed photograph of O’Connor at her Senate confirmation hearings

Sandra Day O’Connor, 1930–.  Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, 1981–2006.  8” x 10” color photograph signed Sandra D. O’Connor.

This is a virtually pristine photo of O’Connor, the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, testifying on the first day of her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 9, 1981. 

Her confirmation hearings were the first for a Supreme Court nominee ever to be televised.  She testified over parts of two days. 

In her opening remarks, O’Connor noted what was then her unique position as a female nominee.  “As the first woman to be nominated as a Supreme Court Justice,” she said, “I am particularly honored, and I happily share the honor with millions of American women of yesterday and of today whose abilities and whose conduct have given me this opportunity for service.”  She had “from afar always regarded the Court with the reverence,” she continued, and, perhaps alluding to women’s rights, she said that it is “to the U.S. Supreme Court that we all turn when we seek that which we want most from our Government:  equal justice under the law.”

The trail to becoming the first woman Justice was not easy.  Although O’Connor completed Stanford Law School in just two years rather than the usual three, graduating third in her class of 102—which was led by future Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, with whom she served on the Supreme Court—she found it difficult to find a law firm position in a field still dominated by men.  She started her own firm and practiced with a single partner until she temporarily withdrew from practice to care for her children. She volunteered time with the Arizona State Hospital, the Arizona State Bar, the Salvation Army, and various local schools. She also became involved with the Arizona Republican Party.  When a state senator resigned, Arizona’s governor appointed O’Connor to the vacant seat.  She remained in the Senate two more terms, becoming the first female majority leader in the United States.  In 1974, O’Connor was elected a judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court, a position she held four years until being appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals in 1979. 

Not quite two years later, President Ronald Reagan appointed O’Connor to replace retiring Justice Potter Stewart.  Despite some partisan wrangling in the Senate Judiciary Committee, including challenges to her concept of judicial activism by then-Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the committee recommended confirmation by a vote of 17 in favor and 1 present.  When her nomination came before the full Senate, Senators confirmed her unanimously by a vote of 99–0 with one senator absent.

Just as Stewart often cast the deciding vote in cases in which the Court was sharply divided, over the next 24 years O’Connor, a moderate conservative, became the deciding vote in many of the most important and debated issues of the day, including abortion and affirmative action.  She eschewed broader legal rules in favor of narrower rulings, tailored to the facts of the specific cases before her, that left the Court breathing room in future cases.  She used her vote—and her reasoning—to temper the starker positions of other Justices whom she joined in the majority.

As a result, O’Connor became one of the most influential women in the United States.  In 2004, Forbes called her the fourth most powerful woman in America and the sixth most powerful in the world.

This photograph is in very fine condition.  Only a tiny bend in the upper left corner and a faint handling mark in the dark area at the right keep it from being extra fine.  O’Connor has signed with a silver paint pen in the dark area to the right of her image.      

Unframed.  Please ask us about custom framing this piece.

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