Sandra Day O'Connor

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12352

The U.S. Supreme Court has been around since 1789, but it took almost 200 years for the court to have its first woman justice! Find out why this lady was so special and suited for the job!


United States, United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start
  • What makes this woman so special?

Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor is significant in American history and government.

Serving as the first woman Supreme Court justice opened the door for more women to become involved in government. As you read about the life and legacy of Sandra Day O'Connor below, create a list of her accomplishments.

Sandra Day O'Connor was born on March 26, 1930, and spent most of her childhood in Arizona, where her family owned a ranch. O'Connor was a skilled horse rider and performed many of the duties around the farm. These experiences taught her the importance of hard work.

O'Connor attended Stanford University, which many consider one of the best colleges in the United States. She earned a bachelor's degree in economics, which is the study of money and wealth. Then, she went to law school and became a lawyer.

After college, O'Connor practiced law in California, Arizona, and Germany.

After working for several years as a lawyer, O'Connor decided she would like to play a more significant role in law and government. She held several different government positions, including state senator, judge for a county court, and assistant attorney general, all in Arizona.

An attorney general is a lawyer for the state government. It is the biggest job a lawyer can have in a state. Throughout her career, O'Connor was recognized for being fair and taking the time to research her decisions.

In 1981, O'Connor's accomplishments were recognized when President Ronald Reagan nominated her as a Supreme Court justice. A woman had never held this position before.

According to the U.S. Constitution, the president appoints a justice for the Supreme Court when a justice dies or resigns. The Senate is then responsible for interviewing the candidate and voting on whether or not the candidate will be selected.

O'Connor was officially appointed to the Supreme Court by a unanimous Senate vote.

As a Supreme Court justice, O'Connor continued to be known for being fair. She did not always vote in favor of political groups that supported her; instead, she voted for what she thought was right and sought to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

The image below shows O'Connor being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice.

Photograph of Sandra Day O'Connor Being Sworn in a Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger, Her Husband John O'Connor Looks On, 09/25/1981

When a Supreme Court justice is appointed, they serve for life or until they retire. In 2006, O'Connor retired to spend more time with her family.

Even after she retired, she continued to be involved in politics and wrote books for adults and children. O'Connor also founded a website, iCivics, which teaches American children how government works.

In 2009, President Obama awarded O'Connor the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a non-veteran can receive in the United States for service to their country.

Watch the following video to continue learning about Sandra Day O'Connor and adding to your list of her accomplishments.

Image - Video

After watching the video, use the list you created to help you answer the following questions.

You can answer the questions on separate paper or in the space below.

Image - Video

Review your responses before moving on to the Got It? section to learn more about some of the most important Supreme Court cases O'Connor was involved with.

Image - Button Next