She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her law school class in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is not that of a woman who surrendered to the status quo — it is the story of a woman who thrived on the challenge of shattering glass ceilings.
She became the first ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona State Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When President Ronald Reagan appointed her, the first female Justice, to the United States Supreme Court in 1981, she began a pioneering quarter-century on the bench, hearing cases that ultimately advanced and defined American law. Diagnosed with cancer at 58, and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.
Thomas illustrates how Justice O’Connor not only built a bridge forward for all women, but also served as a beacon for how our public officials should serve their country. Her life offers a roadmap for when to fight and when to concede, for how to love and when to say goodbye.
Evan Thomas is the author of 10 books, including the New York Times bestselling John Paul Jones, Sea of Thunder, and Being Nixon. Thomas was a writer, correspondent, and editor for 33 years at Time and Newsweek, including a decade as Washington bureau chief at Newsweek. He wrote more than 100 cover stories and in 1999 won a National Magazine Award. He appears on many TV and radio talk shows, including Meet the Press and Morning Joe. Thomas has taught writing and journalism at Harvard and Princeton, where, from 2007 to 2014, he was Ferris Professor of Journalism.
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