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Talon

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Talon

Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court justice, dies at 93

A justice remembered for her influential decisions on polarizing issues
Image+depicting+Sandra+Day+O%E2%80%99Connor+being+sworn+in+as+Supreme+Court+Justice+by+Chief+Justice+Warran+Burger
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Image depicting Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in as Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warran Burger

The first woman on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, died the morning of Dec. 1 in Phoenix, Arizona at 93 years old. 

The Supreme Court released a cause-of-death statement disclosing complications due to respiratory illness and advanced dementia, a diagnosis she announced in October 2018. President Ronald Reagan appointed 51-year-old O’Connor in 1981 and she went on to serve for 24 years. She played a pivotal role in endorsing abortion rights and affirmative action. Since O’Connor’s retirement in 2006, many of the critical rulings she supported have been reversed.

O’Connor was and continues to be a role model for women, one being Chicago resident Molly Witten. During a crucial point in O’Connor’s career as a justice, she was referred to as the most powerful woman in America.

“I had no role models and then comes this woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, who says ‘I can make decisions and I can think independently,’” now 75-year-old Witten said. “And from that day on, I was a fan of Sandra Day O’Connor. She said the things I felt and men listened to her.” 

In July 2005 O’Connor announced her retirement, attributing the decision to her age, then 74, and the need to take care of her husband, John Jay O’Connor, who developed advanced Alzheimer’s. 

“It has been a great privilege, indeed, to have served as a member of the Court for 24 years,” O’Connor wrote. “I will leave it with enormous respect for the integrity of the Court and its role under our Constitutional Structure.” 

O’Connor broke the barrier for women in the Supreme Court. She is succeeded by five other female justices – four of them serving today. 

“It’s wonderful to be the first to do something,” O’Connor said in a 2009 interview. “But I didn’t want to be the last.”

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Ava Harris, Editor-in-Chief
Ava Harris is currently serving as the 2022-2023 features editor for the Talon newspaper. She joined the Talon in the 2019-2020 school year as a Senior Staff Writer. She is now in her third year of Journalism, one of the Talon's longest working editors.
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