March 23, 2022
As different as their backgrounds were, including their approaches from the bench, when it came to women’s rights, they were allies. Justice Ginsberg has even quoted Justice O’Connor: “As this court said some 14 years ago, state actors may not close entrance gates based on fixed notions concerning the roles and abilities of males and females.”
Sandra Day O’Connor Born March 26, 1930 in El Paso, TX, Sandra Day grew up on a cattle ranch with little financial stability. Her family home did not have running water or electricity until she was 7 years old. When she was 16 years old, she enrolled at Stanford University where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A in economics. She continued at Stanford Law School, where she served on the Stanford Law Review along with the then editor-in-chief William Rehnquist. Post law school, despite difficulties in finding a job in the legal field due to her gender, she worked as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, CA. She then served as assistant Attorney General of Arizona from 1965-1969. Afterwards, she ran for and won the election for the Arizona senate, becoming the first woman to serve as any state’s Majority Leader. In 1974, O’Connor was appointed to the Maricopa County Superior Court serving from 1975 to 1979 when she was elevated to the Arizona State Court of Appeals. She served on the Court of Appeals until 1981 when she was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan. As a Supreme Court justice, O’Connor played a crucial role as a “swing vote” in many landmark cases. She retired from the Court in 2005 and went on to participate in many non-profits. She also founded the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute, a program dedicated to promoting civil discourse, civic engagement, and civics education.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg Born March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, NY, Joan Ruth Bader had a very modest upbringing, and had a difficult early life, losing both her sister and mother at an early age. She went by the first name Ruth early on, after her mother suggested that her elementary school teacher call her Ruth, as there were several other girls named Joan in the class. After graduating from high school at 15, she attended Cornell University majoring in government, and met her husband, Martin Ginsberg. She went on to attend Harvard university, where she was 1 of 9 women in a class of 500 men. She transferred to Columbia Law school where she earned her law degree and was the first woman to be on two major law reviews. After passing the bar examination, Ginsberg was denied several clerkship positions despite being over-qualified for these roles, simply because of her gender. She ultimately served as a law clerk for Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She then worked in academia teaching at Rutgers Law School for 6 years and Columbia Law School for 8 years. In 1970, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the U.S. to focus exclusively on women’s rights. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and in 1973, she became the Project’s general counsel. The Women’s Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in more than 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974. As the director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five, and continued her plight to protect the rights of women as a litigator for the next decade. President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg as an associate justice of the Supreme Court on June 22, 1993. During her almost 3 decades on the court, Justice Ginsberg was an integral part in countless landmark decisions and continued her efforts to protect the rights of women. She retired from the court on September 18, 2020, and spent the rest of her life in Washington D.C., enjoying time with her family.