The Four Women for Justice


I am taking a class about the Judicial processes and was shocked to learn that out of the 113 Supreme Court justices, only 6 have not been white men. Of the six, two have been African American men and four have been women, including one Latina. I want to share the success of these 4 women to help inspire young women and encourage you to chase your dreams, no matter the obstacles.


Sandra Day O’Connor

(Photo by Danni Dawson on Oyez)


Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to ever serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. She held her seat from September 1981 until January 2006, as a Republican, until she retired.


At the age of 16, O’Connor was accepted into Stanford University and got her bachelor’s degree in Economics. In the 1950s, she was admitted to Stanford Law and graduated third in her class in two years.


O’Connor struggled to find employment in the legal field as there was a negative stigma around women in politics. However, once she was able to begin her career, positions that she held included county attorney, deputy county attorney, civilian attorney, Assistant Attorney General of Arizona, Arizona State Senator, and Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.


Justice O’Connor’s first move as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court was writing a majority opinion for Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan. Other cases that she was involved in were Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Even though Justice O’Connor retired, she has advocated for young people to be educated on civics and government.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg


(Photo by The Collection of the United States Supreme Court on Oyez)


Before being appointed onto the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was fighting against gender discrimination.


Ginsburg was an excellent student and her success followed her while she attended Cornell University. She graduated in the top of her class in 1954.


In 1956, during her first year at Harvard Law School, Ginsburg’s husband fell ill, but she helped him with his studies by taking and typing his law school notes all while attending her own classes and being a mother.


Ginsburg faced much gender discrimination at Harvard since she was one of the nine female students at her school. Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law during her last year of law school to be with her husband at his new job.


As a woman in law, Ginsburg had a difficult time finding a job despite her impressive educational background. Some job positions she held were clerk, researcher, professor, and director of the Women’s Rights Project of American Civil Liberties Union.


In 1980, she accepted President Carter’s appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which she served on until 1993, when President Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a justice on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg began where she left off and advocated for women’s rights. today, she is one of the most avid questioners on the bench.


Sonia Sotomayor


(Photo by The Collection of the United States Supreme Court on Oyez)


Justice Sonia Sotomayor knew she wanted to be an attorney at the age of 10, so she studied diligently, earning her a scholarship to attend Princeton University. After graduating from Princeton, Sotomayor went on to attend Yale Law School. Upon her graduation from law school, Sotomayor was hired to be an assistant district attorney for district attorney Robert Morgenthau of Manhattan.


Sotomayor established herself as a prosecutor who could not be pushed around because of her young age. In 1948, Sotomayor moved into private practice and joined the New York City law firm, Pavia and Harcourt, which focused on business and corporate law. She was successful with her work on intellectual property rights and copyright litigation, this helped her make partner in 1988, which meant she has partial ownership of the law firm.


In 1991, the Bush administration nominated Sotomayor to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In her new position, Sotomayor gained fame for being the judge who “saved” Major League Baseball with her decision in Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee Inc.


In 1997, President Clinton nominated Sotomayor to the U.S. States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Then in 2009, President Obama nominated Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court and was said to be an easy yes for the Senate. Hispanics around the country celebrated her appointment to the Supreme Court as the first Latina to be on the court. Justice Sotomayor is known for her kindness, trust in the judicial process, and her strong attitude toward ill-prepared attorneys.


Elena Kagan


(Photo by Steve Petteway on Oyez)


At a young age, Justice Elena Kagan was interested in law and academics. In 1977, Kagan was accepted to Princeton University, where she majored in history. After her graduation from Princeton, Kagan earned a fellowship from Princeton to study at a college in Oxford, England, where she graduated in 1983 with a master’s in philosophy.


Upon her return to the U.S., Kagan attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 1986. After her graduation, Kagan clerked for Abner Mikva at the U.S. Court of Appeals, she then went on to clerk for U.S. Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, after that she worked in elections for a short time and then returned to law and joined a private law firm.


Three years later, Kagan went on to become a professor at the University of Chicago Law School where she worked there for four years until President Clinton asked her to be an associate counsel for him.


In 1999, Kagan returned to academia and became a visiting professor at Harvard Law and in 2001 she became a full professor. In 2003 she became the dean of Harvard Law School.


Kagan served as dean for five years until President Obama called upon her for advice and in 2008, he appointed her to be the first female solicitor general, which was confirmed in 2009. Within the next year, President Obama nominated Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Kagan adds a diverse perspective to law because of her expertise with technology and pop culture.


Final Thoughts


I want this article to help encourage all minorities, especially those who identify as women, to pursue a career or participate in politics and law because, believe me when I say that the world needs you! There are so many things that seem scary to us, especially if you’re a minority, but know that it doesn’t hurt to try something out because you never know who you might help or inspire. You are destined for great things, fear is a liar, you got this, and you’re not alone!