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ON THIS DAY : 21 SEPTEMBER : First woman appointed to US Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the US Supreme Court, died over the weekend, triggering an American political crisis.

But the first woman to sit on the court, Sandra Day O’Connor, is very much still alive, and celebrates the thirty-ninth anniversary of her confirmation, today, September 21st.

O’Connor took to the bench in 1981, having been nominated by Ronald Reagan. She went on to serve for 25 years, before retiring from the bench in 2006. Her replacement, John Roberts, is the present Chief Justice.

O’Connor was the only woman on the Supreme court for twelve years, before Ginsburg joined her on the bench in 1993.

A moderately conservative jurist, she usually sided with the court’s so-called conservative wing, but notably, joined with liberal jurists to uphold Roe versus Wade in the case of Planned Parenthood versus Casey.

She provided the deciding vote in a number of other important cases, too. She sided with the court’s liberals to uphold the McCain/Feingold campaign finance bill in 2003, and with the conservatives to declare so-called “reverse discrimination” unconstitutional in the same year.

She also cast the deciding vote in Bush versus Gore, a case which ended the re-counts in the 2000 election, making Bush the President. He would ultimately nominate her successor.

She lives in Arizona today, and is 90 years old.


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