From Cowgirl to Supreme Court Justice

26 Mar
Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor

Apparently, it is no accident that March is named Women’s History Month. Look at all the incredible women who celebrate a birthday this month: Fannie Farmer, Lucy Hobbs Taylor, Senda Berenson, Jane Delano, Gloria Steinem, Karen Carpenter, Flannery O’Connor and another O’Connor, by marriage anyway, Sandra Day.

I know, I know. You haven’t seen everyone highlighted here in Suffragette Kitty. That’s because people like Karen and Gloria had birthdays that fell on busy days for my publicist. I get to lounge around all day, napping, then head to the back window to check on the bird feeder. Then another cat nap. Then, if I feel like it, I head to the front window to check on the (weird) cat in the apartment across the street, But my publicist does not have the same luxuries. She has a paycheck to earn, (She works for me for free.) people to see, places to be. No time for catnaps and spying on neighbors.

Plus, I’m not sure you want to hear my publicist’s story on Karen Carpenter, may she rest in peace (Karen, not my publicist). But, I’ll tell it to you anyway. Back in grade school, my publicist fancied herself a musician. She spent an entire weekend pounding out “Close To You,” on the piano. She played that thing over and over until every lyric matched with laser precision to every keystroke. She actually envisioning herself performing before a standing-room-only audience that burst into thunderous applause and threw roses on the stage as she took her bow in the spotlight.

“On the day that you were born, the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true …”

We don’t pass out barf bags here at Suffragette Kitty, so let’s get back on topic.

Today, March 26, is the 83rd birthday of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed a Supreme Court Justice.

We’ve all heard how hard it is to get to the Supreme Court as a plaintiff (“I’ll take this all the way to the Supreme Court …” ) but have you ever thought about how much harder it is to get on its bench? My publicist and I never thought much about it either choosing neither a law (or thank goodness) performing career. (So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of golden starlight in your eyes of blue) But a lot of young girls in town follow you – follow you – all around. No, dream of becoming lawyers. Now they can supersize those ambitions into Supreme Court Justices. Why not? (Just like me, they long to be, close to you.)

Here’s a little background on Sandra. For starters, did you know she was a cowgirl? How cool is that? Yes, Sandra Day was born in Texas and raised in the saddle of her family’s cattle ranch, Lazy B, in Arizona. She was a promising student, earning a degree in economics from Stanford University in 1950. She remained in the Bay area at  Stanford’s law school where she met fellow student John Jay O’Connor III.

She and John married upon graduation from law school. He was flush with employment options. Sandra was not. She applied to 40 firms and was turned down by 40 firms. No one wanted to take their chances on a woman.

Sandra eventually found “employment” as a lawyer in the form as a volunteer. She was hired as a lawyer in the San Mateo, Calif., deputy county office WITHOUT PAY. Can you believe that? This talented and brilliant woman agreed to WORK FOR FREE (just writing that kills me) so she COULD PROVE HERSELF. Argggghhhhh. We’ve come a long way.

And worse, Sandra was not even given a proper environment to prove herself. She wrote her briefs and answered her own phone in the front office where secretaries took calls and typed briefs for the male lawyers. Again, like all the women featured here, Sandra overcame these bumps in the road and she certainly proved herself – though it would be years before she enjoyed the same benefits as her male colleagues.

Fast forward to 1965, the O’Connors are living in Arizona, and Sandra accepts a job as the assistant attorney general. In 1969 she is appointed to fill a vacancy in the state senate, a post she secures in the subsequent election. Sandra becomes the first woman majority leader in Arizona. She is elected judge in 1975. In 1981 President Ronald Reagan appoints Sandra to the Supreme Court, making history for both of them. There’s no horsing around for this cowgirl!

Sandra and John had three boys, and spent about two years in Frankfurt, Germany, where John worked as a civilian counsel for the United States Army. Sandra has written both a children’s book, Chico, about her life on a cattle ranch, and another book “Lazy B,” with her brother detailing how growing up on ranch prepares you for anything life throws at you.

Like many women, Sandra had to balance family and work. In 1989 her husband and love of her life began demonstrating signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Naturally, this was devastating, but Sandra dealt with it with grace. In 2006, however, she resigned her lifetime post with the country’s highest court. She knew John’s time was limited, and she wanted to spend the rest of his life at his side. He died in 2009, the same year Sandra was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

And just for good measure, here are the torturous lyrics to “Close to You.” Imagine it being performed by a tone deaf 9-year-old. For those too young to remember this “classic” hit, I’m sure you can find it on YouTube. Karen’s version, not my publicist’s.

“Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
Of golden starlight in your eyes of blue

That is why all the girls in town
(Girls in town)
Follow you
(Follow you)
All around
(All around)
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

On the day that you were born the angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair
Of golden starlight in your eyes of blue

That is why all the girls in town
(Girls in town)
Follow you
(Follow you)
All around
(All around)
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you

(Why? Close to you)
(Why? Close to you)
(Haa, close to you)
(Why? Close to you)

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One Response to “From Cowgirl to Supreme Court Justice”

  1. Carol Jamison March 26, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    Miss Alcatt, I have once again shared your post on my Facebook page…I am “meeting” some amazing women!

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