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Sandra Day O'Connor, America's first woman justice, was called the most powerful woman in America. She became the axis on which the Supreme Court turned, and it was often said that to gauge the direction of American law, one need look only to O'Connor's vote. Drawing on information gleaned from once-private papers, hundreds of interviews, and the insight gained from nearly Sandra Day O'Connor, America's first woman justice, was called the most powerful woman in America. She became the axis on which the Supreme Court turned, and it was often said that to gauge the direction of American law, one need look only to O'Connor's vote. Drawing on information gleaned from once-private papers, hundreds of interviews, and the insight gained from nearly two decades of covering the Supreme Court, author Joan Biskupic offers readers a fascinating portrait of a complex and multifaceted woman—lawyer, politician, legislator, and justice, as well as wife, mother, A-list society hostess, and competitive athlete. Biskupic provides an in-depth account of her transformation from tentative jurist to confident architect of American law.


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Sandra Day O'Connor, America's first woman justice, was called the most powerful woman in America. She became the axis on which the Supreme Court turned, and it was often said that to gauge the direction of American law, one need look only to O'Connor's vote. Drawing on information gleaned from once-private papers, hundreds of interviews, and the insight gained from nearly Sandra Day O'Connor, America's first woman justice, was called the most powerful woman in America. She became the axis on which the Supreme Court turned, and it was often said that to gauge the direction of American law, one need look only to O'Connor's vote. Drawing on information gleaned from once-private papers, hundreds of interviews, and the insight gained from nearly two decades of covering the Supreme Court, author Joan Biskupic offers readers a fascinating portrait of a complex and multifaceted woman—lawyer, politician, legislator, and justice, as well as wife, mother, A-list society hostess, and competitive athlete. Biskupic provides an in-depth account of her transformation from tentative jurist to confident architect of American law.

30 review for Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lukasz Pruski

    "O'Connor enjoyed telling audiences that her husband joked, 'I think it is a tribute to American democracy when a cook who moonlights as a janitor can be elected to high public office.'" "[...] journalist Howard Kohn described O'Connor in a profile for theLos Angeles Times as 'arguably, the most powerful woman in the nation' [...]" For such a Supreme Court aficionado as this reviewer Joan Biskupic's biography Sandra Day O'Connor. How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influentia "O'Connor enjoyed telling audiences that her husband joked, 'I think it is a tribute to American democracy when a cook who moonlights as a janitor can be elected to high public office.'" "[...] journalist Howard Kohn described O'Connor in a profile for theLos Angeles Times as 'arguably, the most powerful woman in the nation' [...]" For such a Supreme Court aficionado as this reviewer Joan Biskupic's biography Sandra Day O'Connor. How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice (2005) is a wonderful read. It is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in the political dimension of life in the United States. After all, who sits on the Supreme Court is in many ways more important for the future of the country than who the current president is or which party holds the control of Congress. [Warning: the following paragraph is a political rant.] Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court is a conservative. I am certainly not one, but nevertheless I am in awe of Justice O'Connor's tenure on the Court, her accomplishments, and of how much she influenced the lives of all US residents. The country needs conservatives as much as it needs liberals. What the country does not need is lying, self-serving scum embracing conservative slogans for personal gain and to wield power. [End of rant.] This is a traditionally structured biography, where Ms. Biskupic describes, in considerable detail, the trajectory of the future Justice's life and career. The reader is offered interesting analyses of Sandra Day's childhood and early youth experiences on the Lazy B Ranch outside of Duncan, Arizona. We read about her undergraduate studies at Stanford, which she begins at 16. Then the Stanford Law School, where, coincidentally, William Rehnquist, the future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, is her classmate. In 1952, she graduates from Stanford Law in the top 10%, yet the only job she is offered is that of a legal secretary. Then comes marriage and birth of three sons, which is why her husband refers to her, in jest, as a "cook," and a "janitor." In the 1960s and 1970s, Ms. O'Connor is active in Arizona state politics, including serving at the state senator. At the end of the 1970s, she assumes a seat on Arizona State Court of Appeals. On July 7th, 1981, president Ronald Reagan announces his choice of Sandra Day O'Connor as the first female justice of the Supreme Court. Ms. Biskupic's account of Justice O'Connor's 24 years on the highest court is a captivating read. Some highlights include observations about the dynamic of power on the court between Justices Brennan and O'Connor: "In some ways, the start of Brennan's declining influence could be traced to O'Connor's appointment." In other fascinating passages we read about the striking differences, in the later years on the court, between Justice Scalia, who always held definitive opinions on any issue, and O'Connor, who tended to hold open-ended and pragmatic positions in most matters. Justice O'Connor's tenure on the Court might be illustrated by an ascending line of her influence on the rulings. The quote about her being "the most powerful woman in the nation" is hardly an exaggeration! What I particularly value about Justice O'Connor and what I believe might make her one of the most important justices in the entire history of the nation's highest court is that she was always a voice of moderation and compromise to the extent that she was sometimes accused of wanting "to have it both ways." She embodies the type of a conservative that I can live with: one who eschews ideology and embraces pragmatism. An engaging biography of a great Justice, and a must read for anyone interested in the workings of the Supreme Court. Four stars.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    I’m not quite sure why I choose to read Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice by Joan Biskupic. I think I was looking for another book about her and somehow the library gave me this one. However I happened to stumble upon it, this is a good biography of the first woman jurist of the Supreme Court. The book is arranged chronologically for the most part. It is well organized and competently written. Sometimes Biskupic will revisit an earli I’m not quite sure why I choose to read Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice by Joan Biskupic. I think I was looking for another book about her and somehow the library gave me this one. However I happened to stumble upon it, this is a good biography of the first woman jurist of the Supreme Court. The book is arranged chronologically for the most part. It is well organized and competently written. Sometimes Biskupic will revisit an earlier case but she is very clear about why she is doing this and how it relates to the current discussion. Extensive end notes, an index and a select bibliography make this a good book for source material if you were using it for research. I appreciate that Biskupic, although she seems to admire Sandra Day O’Connor (SDO), has kept that admiration to a minimum. Her tone is neutral throughout, presenting perspectives that both agreed and disagreed with SDO’s legal rulings. The author tries to show the significance of SDO’s rulings and the affect they had on American law. My impression of SDO is that she was very no-nonsense and down to earth. She was not introspective at all and once she made a decision, it was done. She did not look back on it later and regret that possibly she had been wrong. Her legal opinion did evolve and some later rulings modified ones she had made earlier. She also didn’t seem to have a lot of sympathy for people whose life experiences were different from hers. As a highly educated, upper income, white woman, her opinions seemed to indicate that she could not relate to people with different backgrounds. Biskupic covers the controversial decision in Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board—essentially the case in which the Supreme Court picked the next president of the United States instead of voters. The author notes that the judges who usually rule in favor of states’ rights over the Federal government (including SDO), reversed course on this case. She also noted that these same judges are all conservatives, including SDO who has been a politically active Republican her entire adult life. While Biskupic doesn’t voice her opinion on this, she does present evidence suggesting that SDO’s strong ties to the Republican party (and her widely reported disgust over Gore possibly being elected) may have influenced her decision. Sandra Day O’Connor is an interesting biography. Not only does it provide a comprehensive overview (and often in depth) look at SDO’s career on the Supreme Court, but also glimpses inside the Supreme Court and the personalities of the other judges (some of whom are still active). My one solid takeaway from this book is that Supreme Court appointees are political choices. No matter what the current presidential administration may say, the person being considered for a position on the Supreme Court is definitely going to be someone whose political views are aligned with the current occupant of the White House. Although SDO (and the other justices) made their rulings by interpreting and applying Constitutional law and using previous rulings as guidelines, their interpretations will always be made through the lens of their religious upbringing, their personal experiences, values they hold. There will never be a “neutral” justice. Probably the best you can hope for is a Court with a strong moderate/center view willing to acknowledge their biases and be able to make rulings despite that. SDO and the justices did just that when they ruled to uphold Roe v. Wade in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles or morality, but that cannot control our decision. Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code” (272). I recommend this book if you want an understanding of the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court and to learn about rulings that still affect us today.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cora Morgan

    Her backstory was interesting. I didn't know she was a legislator before becoming a Justice, nor did I know she was only a state court judge, not a federal court judge. Then the book just started slogging through cases--I think the last 2/3s of the book is about specific cases, and even though I'm a lawyer, I still was uninterested. Her backstory was interesting. I didn't know she was a legislator before becoming a Justice, nor did I know she was only a state court judge, not a federal court judge. Then the book just started slogging through cases--I think the last 2/3s of the book is about specific cases, and even though I'm a lawyer, I still was uninterested.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    I liked this very much. Joan Biskupic is a veteran Supreme Court reporter and commentator (as well as a lawyer herself) whom I have long enjoyed watching and hearing, particularly on C-SPAN, PBS, and NPR. She is a careful biographer and supplies good notes and bibliography. Her style is very readable, informal but not casual. She gives here a clear portrait of O'Connor's legal and political skills as well as her personality which is much more interesting and complex than I would have guessed fro I liked this very much. Joan Biskupic is a veteran Supreme Court reporter and commentator (as well as a lawyer herself) whom I have long enjoyed watching and hearing, particularly on C-SPAN, PBS, and NPR. She is a careful biographer and supplies good notes and bibliography. Her style is very readable, informal but not casual. She gives here a clear portrait of O'Connor's legal and political skills as well as her personality which is much more interesting and complex than I would have guessed from her deceptively simple public persona. I am next going to try Biskupic's American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of Justice O'Connor. The more I read about her, the more I relate to her. She was a traditional woman who was an established member of the Republican Party, but she was also ambitious and took that ambition all the way to the Supreme Court of the US. It was interesting to hear about how she "played the system" but still got what she wanted. She was a traditional woman, preferred to wear dresses and makeup, carried her handbag with her, but in this traditional I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of Justice O'Connor. The more I read about her, the more I relate to her. She was a traditional woman who was an established member of the Republican Party, but she was also ambitious and took that ambition all the way to the Supreme Court of the US. It was interesting to hear about how she "played the system" but still got what she wanted. She was a traditional woman, preferred to wear dresses and makeup, carried her handbag with her, but in this traditional role she was able to work her way into the politics of the Republican party all the way to the top of our legal system. Women over the years have spoken negatively of Justice O'Connor and how she was too traditional, but I truly believe she was just a traditional kind of woman. That was who she was. Nobody was making her be that way. That was just her. But she was still able to become a US Supreme Court Justice and was able to make decisions in favor of women's rights, affirmative action, state's rights, and other issues that were important to her and were important to our country and all women. She demonstrated how she valued tradition even in her retirement, when she retired from the Court in order to care for her husband, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. For Justice O'Connor, family really did always come first, as was evident to the very end of her career. I don't have to agree with Justice O'Connor on every issue in order to have great respect for the woman and all she accomplished during a time of great turmoil in our nation's history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Feisty Harriet

    Of the ones I've read, this is definitely the best biography on O'Connor. She served as a Supreme Court Justice for 25 years, often as the swing vote between the four conservative and four liberal Justices (at least, until Clinton was able to nominate a few more liberals, ahem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg). For the youngest and first woman on the Court, her vote counted as the decider in many major cases, starting her very first term. However, what was most interesting to me was to see her opinions and Of the ones I've read, this is definitely the best biography on O'Connor. She served as a Supreme Court Justice for 25 years, often as the swing vote between the four conservative and four liberal Justices (at least, until Clinton was able to nominate a few more liberals, ahem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg). For the youngest and first woman on the Court, her vote counted as the decider in many major cases, starting her very first term. However, what was most interesting to me was to see her opinions and voting change throughout her tenure on the Court. She began as super conservative, but her final two or three years on the court she was a lot more liberal and her reasoning more expansive to protect minorities, women, and other disenfranchised people (including criminals and those being held in military prisons without charge or trial for terrorist activities). I know my own journey towards "woke-ness" has taken some time, starting small and moving outward from there. It's somehow helpful for me to realize that without being taught from the beginning to, you know, view all people as equal no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or economic class, that it truly is a process for us to understand the ramifications to groups of people who are dissimilar to ourselves. O'Connor retired in 2005 to care for her ailing husband, John, who was suffering from Alzheimer's. I often wonder what would have happened to her voting patterns and her voice had she continued on the Court as a liberal jurist.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    After reading The Notorious RBG earlier this year I decided to move on to the story of the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor. Her story is fairly different than RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and I did not find it as compelling or relatable. O'Connor was very much a politician, and sought to effect change by winning people over and finding a middle ground. While this approach is admirable, her stance on certain equal rights and women's rights issues earlier in her career left me After reading The Notorious RBG earlier this year I decided to move on to the story of the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor. Her story is fairly different than RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and I did not find it as compelling or relatable. O'Connor was very much a politician, and sought to effect change by winning people over and finding a middle ground. While this approach is admirable, her stance on certain equal rights and women's rights issues earlier in her career left me a bit disappointed. However, the book was extremely well researched and notated, and provided an in-depth look at the workings of the Supreme Court and interactions between the Justices. For this reason I found the book to be compelling and informative.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Sandra Day is one of my heroes. She has lived such an inspiring life and Joan Biskupic does an excellent job highlighting the highs and lows of this influential force. A great read!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shaundell

    Wonderful book that introduces us into the world of Sandra Day O'Connor. I learned so many things about her personal life, her public life, and also about the world of the Supreme Court. Wonderful book that introduces us into the world of Sandra Day O'Connor. I learned so many things about her personal life, her public life, and also about the world of the Supreme Court.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mayhew Tinch

    The first part of the book, about O'Connor's growing up years, was a bit slow. I thought it picked up well once she was appointed to the Supreme Court. O'Connor is an interesting character. Though she set a precedent by being the first female SCOTUS justice, she didn't fit the mold of a radical reformer. She was both excellent lawyer/judge and "traditional" female, once saying that family should come first. She refused to take up certain stances simply because they were "women's issues". Biskupi The first part of the book, about O'Connor's growing up years, was a bit slow. I thought it picked up well once she was appointed to the Supreme Court. O'Connor is an interesting character. Though she set a precedent by being the first female SCOTUS justice, she didn't fit the mold of a radical reformer. She was both excellent lawyer/judge and "traditional" female, once saying that family should come first. She refused to take up certain stances simply because they were "women's issues". Biskupic does a really good job of showing how O'Connor's legal opinions modified and changed over time. She portrays O'Connor as one who prefers incremental change over radical change. O'Connor didn't always vote her convictions -- she stated that she found abortion abhorent, yet always voted to retain Roe v Wade. She was usually behind states' rights issues, voting to block federal government interference. She was a political schemer and seemed to take political gain into consideration, more in her pre-SCOTUS days as a legislator than in her SCOTUS days, though she was careful in projecting her public image. In the SCOTUS, she was often the swing vote, taking a more centrist position that many of her colleagues. I especially enjoyed how Biskupic talked about the relationships between the justices. Interesting note: O'Connor refused to be interviewed for this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    O'Connor is a remarkable woman with or without being a Supreme Court Justice. What surprised me the most is that she once went on few dates with Rehnquist during law school. O'Connor mystified feminists by stating her success came by putting her family first and she would put family first to the end of her tenure. She believed in federalism and her opinions only took small steps in defining the law. O'Connor was successful in gaining support and was truly collaborative. She never let opinions sha O'Connor is a remarkable woman with or without being a Supreme Court Justice. What surprised me the most is that she once went on few dates with Rehnquist during law school. O'Connor mystified feminists by stating her success came by putting her family first and she would put family first to the end of her tenure. She believed in federalism and her opinions only took small steps in defining the law. O'Connor was successful in gaining support and was truly collaborative. She never let opinions shape friendship and never held a grudge. One of the few judges who served in political office she held a unique perspective of the state legislature (not the office of bureaucracy for the federal government) and deep political involvement and insight. Her tenure is defined by opinions of a centrist despite her party affiliations.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim Padan

    I got this book after RBG passed away, before ACB was sworn in. Turns out Justice O'Connor was often referred to as SOC, at least in notes and memos shared among court staff. Interesting look into a woman who made history. I am not a lawyer, nor even someone who follows the law closely, so portions that detailed some Court decisions were a bit dry for me. Admittedly, some cases were more intriguing to me, so I concentrated on those. What I enjoyed most was the personal look at SOC upbringing, work I got this book after RBG passed away, before ACB was sworn in. Turns out Justice O'Connor was often referred to as SOC, at least in notes and memos shared among court staff. Interesting look into a woman who made history. I am not a lawyer, nor even someone who follows the law closely, so portions that detailed some Court decisions were a bit dry for me. Admittedly, some cases were more intriguing to me, so I concentrated on those. What I enjoyed most was the personal look at SOC upbringing, work in the AZ legislature and court, and her manner of working with fellow justices. I don't agree with all her decisions, and her centrist ideas seemed to frustrate many people, not just me. But the personal notes and memos (some quite funny) and interviews from others illustrate a woman of great intelligence and grace who is very likeable and admirable.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I found the history of the first female Supreme Court Justice a roller coaster ride. This book is undoubtedly well researched and O'Connor undoubtedly a bright person. But her behavior politically on a State level felt to me more understanding of the way women were treated unequally than her behavior was as a Justice. Maybe her behavior had to do with her being one woman working with eight men which undoubtedly had its consequences. She did seem to lighten up a bit after Ruth Bader Ginsburg came I found the history of the first female Supreme Court Justice a roller coaster ride. This book is undoubtedly well researched and O'Connor undoubtedly a bright person. But her behavior politically on a State level felt to me more understanding of the way women were treated unequally than her behavior was as a Justice. Maybe her behavior had to do with her being one woman working with eight men which undoubtedly had its consequences. She did seem to lighten up a bit after Ruth Bader Ginsburg came on board. So who was she really? Bright, strong, energetic for sure.

  14. 5 out of 5

    GinnyP

    This was not as much biography as I thought, in that it included, once she reached adulthood and was placed on the court, a lot about her influence in major decisions, not the least of which is Roe v. Wade. I learned a lot! She is a strong woman, but also a concensus builder, less conservative as she stayed longer on the bench. Not much else to write about. I enjoyed this and am glad to have it on my Nook where I can go back to look for certain cases and her role in them. She is a woman to admir This was not as much biography as I thought, in that it included, once she reached adulthood and was placed on the court, a lot about her influence in major decisions, not the least of which is Roe v. Wade. I learned a lot! She is a strong woman, but also a concensus builder, less conservative as she stayed longer on the bench. Not much else to write about. I enjoyed this and am glad to have it on my Nook where I can go back to look for certain cases and her role in them. She is a woman to admire.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bill Sleeman

    A good solid introduction to her career and contributions. I wish that there had been more details about her political career in Arizona. I realize that her Court experience is what most readers (myself included) want to know about and author Joan Biskupic does a fine job covering what is mostly familiar ground but the too brief portion of this work that discussed the Justice's earlier experience left me wanting to know more about that. Still, this is a very good, very informative work. A good solid introduction to her career and contributions. I wish that there had been more details about her political career in Arizona. I realize that her Court experience is what most readers (myself included) want to know about and author Joan Biskupic does a fine job covering what is mostly familiar ground but the too brief portion of this work that discussed the Justice's earlier experience left me wanting to know more about that. Still, this is a very good, very informative work.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

    Engaging read. The author, Joan Biskupic, asserts in the books sub-title that the book will explain "How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice." She falls far short on that claim. I did however, find the book interesting and enlightening. 3.5 stars, rounding up of course. If you want a good survey bio of O'Connor and the Court, this will fit that bill. Engaging read. The author, Joan Biskupic, asserts in the books sub-title that the book will explain "How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice." She falls far short on that claim. I did however, find the book interesting and enlightening. 3.5 stars, rounding up of course. If you want a good survey bio of O'Connor and the Court, this will fit that bill.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lance Cahill

    Author did a service by uncovering some previously unknown information from the papers of retired Supreme Court justices. However, I felt a lot of the information was in a previous book (‘Becoming Justice Blackmun’). Very light of legal rationale - very much a book for the lay reader interested in how the court has been shaped by certain personalities. The book was well written and well paced.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Diane Secchiaroli

    Learned some interesting things about her but not as good as First:Sandra Day O’Connor biography. Too much actual cases in the third part of the book. I’m not a lawyer and found it boring. I didn’t know how she was picked so that was interesting. She was certainly a trailblazer while remaining a traditional woman.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cooper Ackerly

    Neither by any means as groundbreaking as the career of its subject not as comprehensive as O’Conner’s influential career deserved, Biskupic’s biography is nevertheless a well-researched and compelling portrait of the most influential justices in the past half century.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maddie Zgonc

    Wonderful insight on the first woman on SCOTUS. I've read many of her opinions in class, but hearing the history behind the decisions/dissents added much more to my understanding of who she was as a justice. Wonderful insight on the first woman on SCOTUS. I've read many of her opinions in class, but hearing the history behind the decisions/dissents added much more to my understanding of who she was as a justice.

  21. 4 out of 5

    George

    A thoroughly engaging, well documented biography. A favorable, but occasionally critical account, written in language non-lawyers can understand.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Buddy Draper

    SOC is an incredible woman who rose to great heights at the Supreme Court. I didn’t realize how much influence she had on the Supreme Court. My respect for her grew with my understanding.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jane Thompson

    Biograph This is a very good book. It tells the tale of Sandra O'Cpmmet from the time she was a tote girl on a ranch until she retired from the SupremeCourt.It ttells of her progress in the law. Biograph This is a very good book. It tells the tale of Sandra O'Cpmmet from the time she was a tote girl on a ranch until she retired from the SupremeCourt.It ttells of her progress in the law.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Leona Farris

    I didn't finish. Too much info on court cases for me. Probably good for others. I didn't finish. Too much info on court cases for me. Probably good for others.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    This well researched biography offers a fairly comprehensive overview of Sandra Day O'Connor's (SOC) life and career, up until her retirement from the Supreme Court. Of course, she grabbed national attention when she was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 as the first female justice. Her experience in the court system was considered to be rather thin at the time, but she learned quickly and soon found her niche in the Court. The book covers her interactions with all of the other court members, h This well researched biography offers a fairly comprehensive overview of Sandra Day O'Connor's (SOC) life and career, up until her retirement from the Supreme Court. Of course, she grabbed national attention when she was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 as the first female justice. Her experience in the court system was considered to be rather thin at the time, but she learned quickly and soon found her niche in the Court. The book covers her interactions with all of the other court members, her opinions on many cases, and her changing role throughout the years as she became more centrist. She learned to work within the system to get what she wanted, and she also enjoyed her role in the social life of Washington. She was a pragmatist, a consensus builder, wary of the encroaching role of federal government. As summarized by the author, "Once she found the middle she never left it. Se developed an incremental approach, taking her cues from the country and pushing it ever so slightly. She would neither drive the culture of the nation, not seriously upset it." Nevertheless SOC left an indelible stamp on the Supreme Court and paved the way for other women to follow in this highly visible and important role. The author's academic style, with many citations and footnotes, contributes to a rather dry and somewhat unengaging text, however by the end of the book I definitely felt like I knew much more about the life and work of SOC. SOC declined to contribute to this book; therefore the author relied on her many years as a reporter for the Court, and many articles and cases in the public domain to craft her story of SOC. The final one-third of the volume is dedicated to citations, footnotes, bibliography and credits. Though the book is comprehensive and factual, it lacks an emotional core, and I never felt that I really knew SOC, the woman, not just the judge.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Conarro

    I am in the middle of this one and am compelled to finish it. Thank God I am into her actual work on the Supreme Court, or I might have thrown this book out the window. The author speaks a little too glowingly of SDOC for my taste. I don't think ill of SDOC, but my god, all this about how she is the creme de la creme of mothers, wives, AND SCt justices is about all I can take.... I wanted to throw up at the description of her baking treats for the Reagan committee, when they came out to her plac I am in the middle of this one and am compelled to finish it. Thank God I am into her actual work on the Supreme Court, or I might have thrown this book out the window. The author speaks a little too glowingly of SDOC for my taste. I don't think ill of SDOC, but my god, all this about how she is the creme de la creme of mothers, wives, AND SCt justices is about all I can take.... I wanted to throw up at the description of her baking treats for the Reagan committee, when they came out to her place in AZ to talk to her about her potential as a SCt justice candidate. I could bake more, too, if I had a person to clean my house and do the damn laundry! UPDATE: Am getting closer to the finish on this one, and I can't get hung up on the "she-can-do-everything-at-one" stuff anymore. The discussion on how the drafts go 'round on the cases, how the justices jockey for position, how SOC's reasoning is often too case-specific or too much of a compromise to be lasting, is absolutely interesting. And, as much as I don't like a lot about Scalia, I enjoy reading about the zingers he would send SOC's way. I would hate to be in his line of fire. UPDATE: I finished this finally about one week ago. Final thought is that it is worth reading, although you can skip the first 100 pages or so...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Piet Hein

    Biscupic has managed to write an impressive biography of the first woman on the US Supreme Court (SC), Sandra Day O’Connor (SOC). SOCs story seems to be told well, both relative to her more personal matters as to her professional life. Biscupic makes it plausible that and how SDO background has influenced her work as a Justice, and how she as a Justice has influenced the SC. Although Biscupic seems quit sympathetic to SOC and analyses in a friendly manner, it seems to me that she has given a bal Biscupic has managed to write an impressive biography of the first woman on the US Supreme Court (SC), Sandra Day O’Connor (SOC). SOCs story seems to be told well, both relative to her more personal matters as to her professional life. Biscupic makes it plausible that and how SDO background has influenced her work as a Justice, and how she as a Justice has influenced the SC. Although Biscupic seems quit sympathetic to SOC and analyses in a friendly manner, it seems to me that she has given a balanced account of the person and the Justice that SOC has been. It for example becomes clear that SOC is not a great legal scholar or legal theorist, but that she deeply understands how the law works and how it can be used to fulfill its role in society. It is highly interesting to read where and how SDO was able to influence many cases (which are described in an interesting and clear fashion) and in which instances she failed to do so and why. I gladly recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed reading The Nine by Toobin or who is interested to read about the way the law, courts and judges function. The book is moreover recommendable to anyone who is interested to get a very clear insight on how a woman could rise to the legal top position of SC Justice and what obstacles and societal and political developments she met while doing so.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bob Allen

    The first part of the book, about O'Connor's growing up years, was a bit slow. I thought it picked up well once she was appointed to the Supreme Court. O'Connor is an interesting character. Though she set a precedent by being the first female SCOTUS justice, she didn't fit the mold of a radical reformer. She was both excellent lawyer/judge and "traditional" female, once saying that family should come first. She refused to take up certain stances simply because they were "women's issues". Biskupi The first part of the book, about O'Connor's growing up years, was a bit slow. I thought it picked up well once she was appointed to the Supreme Court. O'Connor is an interesting character. Though she set a precedent by being the first female SCOTUS justice, she didn't fit the mold of a radical reformer. She was both excellent lawyer/judge and "traditional" female, once saying that family should come first. She refused to take up certain stances simply because they were "women's issues". Biskupic does a really good job of showing how O'Connor's legal opinions modified and changed over time. She portrays O'Connor as one who prefers incremental change over radical change. O'Connor didn't always vote her convictions -- she stated that she found abortion abhorent, yet always voted to retain Roe v Wade. She was usually behind states' rights issues, voting to block federal government interference. She was a political schemer and seemed to take political gain into consideration, more in her pre-SCOTUS days as a legislator than in her SCOTUS days, though she was careful in projecting her public image. In the SCOTUS, she was often the swing vote, taking a more centrist position that many of her colleagues. I especially enjoyed how Biskupic talked about the relationships between the justices. Interesting note: O'Connor refused to be interviewed for this book.`

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    I read The Nine, and like most people, loved it. I wanted more Supreme Court gossip and backstory. So I decided to read Biskupic's biography of SDOC. And it did not disappoint. I didn't necessarily like or agree with O'Connor any more than I had before reading it, but it was definitely fascinating reading, especially in regards to how this trailblazer negotiated being a woman and a Justice, the first in the land. At times I wish the author had been more argumentative and analytical but she large I read The Nine, and like most people, loved it. I wanted more Supreme Court gossip and backstory. So I decided to read Biskupic's biography of SDOC. And it did not disappoint. I didn't necessarily like or agree with O'Connor any more than I had before reading it, but it was definitely fascinating reading, especially in regards to how this trailblazer negotiated being a woman and a Justice, the first in the land. At times I wish the author had been more argumentative and analytical but she largely keeps this at the level of a biographical exploration and not an argument about SDOC's choices. That said, even Biskupic has a difficult time being kind to O'Connor and her four fellow Justices about Bush v. Gore. But that's as it should be.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Josh Liller

    I started reading this for my local non-fiction book club, but ended up caught up with a bunch of other things (including college papers and research) that means I'm not going to have a chance to finishing it. I got about halfway through. It seems a fairly even-handed treatment of O'Connor. I don't know a great deal about the Supreme Court or its judges which at times made it more interesting and other times made the level of detail feel a bit dull. I don't feel excited enough about it to put it b I started reading this for my local non-fiction book club, but ended up caught up with a bunch of other things (including college papers and research) that means I'm not going to have a chance to finishing it. I got about halfway through. It seems a fairly even-handed treatment of O'Connor. I don't know a great deal about the Supreme Court or its judges which at times made it more interesting and other times made the level of detail feel a bit dull. I don't feel excited enough about it to put it back on my To Read list so it's going on my Did Not Finish list instead, though there is a slight chance I might someday finish it. I suppose that apathy says much.

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