Florence King became the first woman to win a lawsuit in front of the United States Supreme Court (Crown v. Nye). Ella Lillian Wall Van Leer was the first woman to serve in an American Legion position, and she later successfully advocated for women's admission to Georgia Tech. Women have been elected to national office as governors and senators, but they still account for less than 20 percent of all Congress members.
In law schools across the country, female students outnumber their male counterparts by nearly 2 to 1. But only about 15 percent of lawyers are women, and only five states (Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont) have equal numbers of men and women serving as state attorneys.
The most common argument against women serving on juries is that they will not reach fair decisions because they are not allowed to see things from the defendant's perspective. But research has shown that women can be just as effective as men at considering both facts and feelings when making judgments. The real reason many jury officials oppose women jurors is that they want to avoid having to deal with issues such as birth control, pregnancy, and child care. However, studies have also shown that women tend to ask more questions of witnesses and use their experiences to help them make up their minds about the case.
There have been several attempts to pass laws prohibiting women from serving on juries. But so far these efforts have all failed.
Sandra Day O'Connor, the court's first female justice, was appointed by a Republican president in 1981 and was widely viewed as a conservative choice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female judge, was appointed by a Democratic president in 1993 and is largely regarded as a liberal. There have been other women judges before them, but they were not given tenure or allowed to sit on cases.
There has never been a female chief justice, but three women have held the position of associate justice: O'Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
O'Connor was born in Burbank, California, on 20 February 1932. She graduated from Stanford University School of Law in San Francisco in 1955. After working as a lawyer for a large law firm, O'Connor joined the Arizona Supreme Court in 1975. She was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1996 by Republican President Bill Clinton. O'Connor retired from the court in 2006 at the age of 65 after being diagnosed with cancer.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 18 October 1933. She attended Columbia University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1954 and her juris doctor in 1958. After graduating from law school, Ginsburg worked as a legal assistant to a federal district court judge in New York City.
O'Connor, Sandra Day Sandra Day O'Connor, née Sandra Day (born March 26, 1930 in El Paso, Texas, United States), was an associate judge of the United States Supreme Court from 1981 until 2006. She was the Supreme Court's first female justice. She was a moderate conservative recognized for her impartial and well studied views.
On the court, she replaced Lewis F. Powell, Jr., who retired. She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate. Her appointment was not controversial at the time because there were no openings on the court.
She is also the first Hispanic and the first American born after the court's establishment in 1789. O'Connor was raised in a large family with five other siblings. Her parents were Irish immigrants who owned a grocery store. She received a bachelor's degree from Stanford University and a law degree from Yale University where she was notes editor of the Yale Law Journal. After graduating from law school, she worked as a tax attorney for the government before being elected as a district court judge. She became one of the most influential women in politics and led many major cases during her time on the court.
O'Connor was married to John Garwood O'Connor for more than 30 years. They had two children together: a daughter, Kelly, and a son, Patrick. O'Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. She underwent a mastectomy and began radiation therapy that same year.