Breaking Down Barriers: Arizona’s Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
The town of Duncan, Arizona in Greenlee County is quite modest in size. In fact, the 2010 census counted the population at a mere 696 souls. By 2018 the estimated population had risen to 789.
I can’t imagine it was much different when a young girl saddled up and helped on her parent’s 198,000-acre cattle ranch in the 1930s and 40s. Young Sandra Day O’Connor even knew how to shoot, using her .22-caliber rifle to protect the ranch from coyotes and bring jackrabbits home for the family dinner.
Sandra was even driving as soon as she was tall enough to touch the pedals and see past the dashboard. Living on the ranch, fending for herself went without saying and she even changed the flat tires herself.
According to Wikipedia, Sandra’s family home was a full 9 miles away from the nearest road and the house didn’t even have running water or electricity until after Sandra’s seventh birthday.
In her memoir, Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest, Sandra recalled her intention to join the local cattle roundup, which was, at the time, an all-male event.
“Changing it to accommodate a female was probably my first initiation into joining an all-men’s club,” she recalled.
This barrier would be the first of many O’Connor would break through. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the highest court in the land, making Sandra the first female justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court; she was confirmed by the US Senate on September 21, 1981, with a vote of 99–0.
Sandra Day O’Connor paved the way for other women to serve on the Supreme Court. Retiring in 2006, she continued to work to create opportunities for young people throughout the nation. In 2009, O'Connor founded the non-profit, Sandra Day O'Connor Institute. Its programs are dedicated to promoting civil discourse, civic engagement, and civics education.
Source: Day O’Connor, S., & Day, H.A. (2003). Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest (3rd ed.). Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition.