Sandra Day O'Connor Swearing In

The First Female Associate Justice of the Supreme Court – Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor Cartoon

It took nearly 200 years, but the United States finally elevated its first female Justice to the Supreme Court on September 21, 1981. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed through a unanimous vote of 99 to 0.

Take a look back at four newspapers from 1981 which captured Justice O’Connor’s history-making nomination and confirmation.

In a ceremony formally known as an investiture, the Leader-Telegram’s article “O’Connor Invested to Supreme Court” provided a detailed account of the swearing-in. The official ceremony only lasted about 10 minutes and was attended by President Ronald Reagan. It was the first time a president had been to the Supreme Court in six years.

On her first day, Justice O’Connor attended one of the most secret meetings of the Supreme Court. They started discussing more than 1,000 petitions that sought review by the highest court in the nation where no “outsiders” are ever allowed entrance – not even clerks, secretaries, or aides.

Over 300 dignitaries were invited to watch as Mrs. O’Connor took the oath of office as the 102nd Supreme Court Justice. The tradition-filled ceremony was held in the nation’s highest courtroom. After stepping down as Arizona appeals court judge, she replaced Potter Stewart, who resigned from the Supreme Court two months prior.

As a new member of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor had to take two different oaths of office – a constitutional oath and a judicial oath. These short but powerful oaths were featured in the September 25, 1981, edition of the Paris News that showcased the nation’s first woman Justice of the Supreme Court.

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