Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court, died Friday in Phoenix at the age of 93. According to Supreme Court sources, the cause of death was complications of dementia. Born on March 26, 1930, in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Arizona, she is survived by her sons, Scott, Brian, and Jay; six grandchildren; and her brother, Alan. O'Connor was appointed to the court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan after working as a public attorney and serving in all three branches of government in Arizona.
Growing up on a cattle ranch with no running water or electricity, she described herself as a “cowgirl from the Arizona desert.” She later moved to El Paso to live with her grandmother and attend a private girls’ school and later enrolled at Stanford University at age 16. In 1952, she earned a law degree from Stanford Law School, where she met and eventually married John Jay O'Connor III.
Appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969, she became the first woman to serve as majority leader in any state in 1973. In 1981, in another first, she was greenlighted unanimously by the US Senate in a televised hearing. She was sworn in on Sept. 25, 1981.
In 1992 she would become the swing vote in the Planned Parenthood v Casey case which reaffirmed the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe vs. Wade. She also tipped the scale in Bush v Gore regarding the 2000 presidential election. With the outcome revolving around Florida’s 25 electoral college votes, both candidates had asked state and federal courts to rule on the validity of the State's procedures. O’Connor repeatedly asked whether the Florida court was trying to change the rules in the middle of the election and, in the end, voted to award the election to Bush.
Day O'Connor retired in 2006 when her husband developed Alzheimer's disease. He died in 2009.