Sandra Day O’Connor (born March 26, 1930) is a retired Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from her appointment by Ronald Reagan in 1981 until her retirement in 2006.
She was the first woman to be appointed to the Court, unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate on September 21, 1981.
Prior to O’Connor’s appointment to the Court, she was an elected official and judge in Arizona serving as the first female Majority Leader in the United States as the Republican Mar 26leader in the Arizona Senate. On July 1, 2005, she announced her intention to retire effective upon the confirmation of a successor. Samuel Alito was nominated to take her seat in October 2005, and joined the Court on January 31, 2006.
Considered a federalist and a moderate conservative, O’Connor tended to approach each case narrowly without arguing for sweeping precedents. She most frequently sided with the court’s conservative bloc, although in the latter years of her tenure, she was regarded as having the swing opinion in many cases. Her unanimous confirmation by the Senate in 1981 was supported by most conservatives, led by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, and liberals, including Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and women’s rights groups like the National Organization for Women.
O’Connor was Chancellor of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and currently serves on the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Several publications have named O’Connor among the most powerful women in the world. On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, by President Barack Obama.