Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a Centrist, was the first woman nominated to the United States Supreme Court on on July 7, 1981 by President Reagan. Justice O'Connor served 24 years on the Supreme Court before retiring. President Bush initially chose Harriet Miers -- an unqualified loyalist -- to replace O'Connor. After a bruising media battle Miers withdrew her nomination and the more masculine, more conservative Samuel Alito was nominated to replace Mrs. O'Connor. From TheDailyBeast:
"The Daily Beast: Are you happy that a woman, Sonia Sotomayor, has been nominated to fill the latest vacancy on the Supreme Court?
"Sandra Day O'Connor: I should say so. I was disappointed when I stepped down that I wasn’t replaced by a woman. It’s important for people to look around and see that women, who make up slightly more than 50 percent of the population, are represented on the court.
"The Daily Beast: Judge Sotomayor’s supporters say that her background and life story would make her a good addition to the court. Should such things matter in picking a justice?
"SDO: We’re all creatures of our upbringing. We bring whatever we are as people to a job like the Supreme Court. We have our life experiences. For example, for me it was growing up on a remote ranch in the West. If something broke, you’d have to fix it yourself. The solution didn’t always have to look beautiful, but it had to work. So that made me a little more pragmatic than some other justices. I liked to find solutions that would work.
"The Daily Beast: You were the last elected official to serve on the court. You were the Republican leader in the Arizona state Senate, and you served in all three branches of state government. Was that important to your work on the High Court?
"SDO: Absolutely. And here’s something I want to emphasize. It’s important for the Supreme Court to have a broader set of life experiences than just people who have served as judges. Judge Sotomayor’s appointment would mean that all nine justices are products of the federal courts of appeals. It used to not be that way. I was from state government. William Rehnquist had never been a judge before he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Lewis Powell had never been a judge. But they had broad real-life experiences, and I thought that helped make them good justices. In years past, you always had people on the court who had not spent their entire career as judges."
O’Connor currently serves as Chancellor of the College of William and Mary.