5 Books About Sandra Day O’Connor – Freedom Voice


Readers see a justice who was aware of the significance of her position, and who knew what she wanted her legacy to be. As Jeffrey Toobin put it in the Book Review: “While still a justice and in robust health, she gave instructions to her sons about the public portion of her funeral, writing, ‘I hope I have helped pave the pathway for other women who have chosen to follow a career.’”

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O’Connor and her brother, Day, joined forces to reminisce about growing up on their family’s cattle ranch on the Arizona-New Mexico border. As Linda Greenhouse wrote in her review, “To Eastern, urban sensibilities, her early life is not only exotic but nearly impossible to reconcile with the Sandra Day O’Connor the public knows: the prim and button-down onetime president of the Phoenix Junior League, at home at formal dinners and on country club golf courses, who grew up to become the first woman on the United States Supreme Court.”

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Hirshman’s book is a detailed account of the time that O’Connor and Ginsburg, two of the most influential women in recent United States history, spent together. “For anyone interested in the court, women’s history or both, the story of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, their separate routes to the Supreme Court and what they accomplished during the more than 12 years they spent together is irresistible,” Greenhouse wrote in her review. “Did Justices O’Connor and Ginsburg really change the world? Or did they make it all the way to the Supreme Court, as the first and second women ever to serve there, because the world had changed?”

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O’Connor was in a historical, reflective mode here, taking a look at the origins of the institution whose modern history she helped define. As Michiko Kakutani wrote in her review, “The reason to read ‘Out of Order’ is to get Justice O’Connor’s succinct, snappy account of how today’s court — so powerful, so controversial and so frequently dissected by the media — evolved from such startlingly humble and uncertain beginnings that it initially seemed like a jerry-built enterprise constructed on entirely ad hoc principles.”

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Drawing on interviews with justices and clerks, Toobin, a former New Yorker staff writer and CNN legal analyst, covered about three decades in the history of the court under Chief Justice William Rehnquist. As David Margolick wrote in the Book Review, “O’Connor was clearly Toobin’s most important source. She’s also — readers can decide if it’s coincidental — his hero: the justice, he argues, who through her pragmatic, seat-of-the-pants jurisprudence single-handedly kept the court close to the American mainstream, particularly on matters like reproductive freedom and affirmative action.”

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