Sandra Day O'Connor, first woman on US Supreme Court, dies aged 93

Former justice was part of majority opinion that resulted in George W Bush's 2000 presidential election win

Sandra Day O'Connor is sworn in as a Supreme Court justice in 1981. US National Archives / Reuters
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Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve as a justice on the US Supreme Court, has died aged 93, the court announced on Friday.

In a statement, the court said Ms O'Connor died of complications related to dementia and respiratory illness.

Nominated in 1981 by president Ronald Reagan, Ms O'Connor was the first woman named to serve in the highest court in the federal judiciary.

Mr Reagan said when first introducing her to the American people that she was a woman “for all seasons”.

She served on the court until 2006.

In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her role in transforming the American judiciary, paving the way for women to join. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson have joined the nation’s highest court since.

She had a lasting impact on the court itself, which had not been designed for women to serve on the bench: the first women’s bathroom was designated near the courtroom after she was appointed, according to the US Supreme Court's website.

Ms O'Connor was part of the majority when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to stop the Florida presidential recount that resulted in George W Bush winning the 2000 presidential election over Democrat Al Gore in 2000.

The late justice wrote five books: Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest (2002); The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice (2002); Chico (2005); Finding Susie (2009); and Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court (2013).

Following her tenure on the Supreme Court, she founded and led iCivics, the nation’s leading civics education platform.

Chief Justice John Roberts said of Ms O’Connor: “A daughter of the American South-west, Sandra Day O'Connor blazed an historic trail as our nation’s first female Justice.

“She met that challenge with undaunted determination, indisputable ability and engaging candour. We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law and an eloquent advocate for civics education.”

Updated: December 01, 2023, 3:50 PM