Ronald Reagan promised to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court if elected President and kept that promise. His selection was an Arizona Supreme Court justice and former legislator who missed the valedictory spot in her class at Stanford Law by two places. Third in her class when the lead student was William Hobbs Rehnquist, a colleague for the last 24 years of her public life.
Justice O'Connor is dignified, intelligent and strong. She faced the challenges of becoming a lawyer in the immediate postwar era, when women were not careerists. She excelled. She faced the challenges of politics in a fairly conservative southwestern state, and won. She bore the burden of being the first woman to become a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, and handled it and herself with incomparable dignity. And for years, she has done all this with both her own health problems and those of her husband causing massive inconvenience. The controversial aspects of her legacy aside, she will remain an icon for being a pioneer.