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FIRST Sandra Day O’Connor

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

An inspiring and enlightening autobiography of a most amazing woman.



Sandra Day was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. She graduated near the top of her law school class in 1952, but no firm would even interview her. Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings—with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and toughness.

She became the first ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the United States Supreme Court, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the Court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law. Diagnosed with cancer at fifty-eight, and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.


Absolutely loved this authoritative and well-sourced autobiography of Sandra Day O’Connor, who became the most powerful woman in America. Sources include Supreme Court internal records, and interviews with O’Connor, and many of her clerks, friends and family. FIRST draws a fabulous portrait of her childhood, her personal life, and her twenty-five years on the bench.

The writing is superb. I cried when I read the backstory of her appointment to the Supreme Court, just as I had when she was actually appointed in 1981. I loved hearing about her thoughtful deliberations on the tough issues of discrimination and abortion. I laughed at the many funny stories of dancing, making jokes and having a good time. I enjoyed reading about her jovial husband John, and how he dealt with being married to the “most powerful woman” in America. I was captivated at many details of her relationships and interactions with the other justices.

Being from Florida, one of my favorite parts of the book was the chapter on Bush v. Gore. Not because I necessarily liked the outcome, but because I now finally understand the rationale behind it. FIRST is an inspiring and enlightening autobiography of an amazing woman. The book is smartly structured and is bounding with magnificent personal and professional details. Highly recommended.

Author Evan Thomas is the author of nine books including two NYT best sellers: John Paul Jones and Sea of Thunder. Thomas was a writer, correspondent, and editor for thirty-three years at Time and Newsweek, including ten years (1986–96) as Washington bureau chief at Newsweek, where, at the time of his retirement in 2010, he was editor at large.

Thanks to Netgalley, Evan Thomas and Random House for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Random House

Published March 19, 2019

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