Sandra Day O’Connor

Title: Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice
Published by: Harper Perennial


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 hostess, and competitive athlete. Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice provides an in-depth account of her transformation from tentative jurist to confident architect of American law.

Praise & Reviews

"[A] superbly thorough and perceptive biography. … Biskupic offers excellent and original portrayals of the justices’ relations with one another. . . She does an impressive job of emphasizing how O’Connor … sharpened the skills that allowed her to become an influential justice. …"
David J. Garrow, New Republic

"[A] powerful and persuasive account of O'Connor as the most astute political leader on the Court since Justice William J. Brennan. . . Biskupic painstakingly researched her subject. [A] highly … engaging work."
—Kathleen M. Sullivan, Washington Post Book World

"Depending on one’s point of view, O’Connor was a brave defender of the Constitution or a traitor to the president who put her on the Court, Reagan, and his supporters. All of which makes Joan Biskupic’s study of Justice O’Connor a timely and important book. . . illuminating accounts."
Anthony Lewis, New York Review of Books

"Biskupic…[has] perfect timing. Her book appears as O’Connor leaves the bench and while her legacy is unsettled, Biskupic jumps into that opening with a well-researched and (no doubt to O’Connor’s chagrin) revealing account…Biskupic’s research gets across O’Connor’s blend of smarts and pearls."
—Emily Bazelon, New York Times Book Review (Also a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice)

"A comprehensive narrative of O’Connor’s remarkable career."
—Jeffrey Rosen, Los Angeles Times Book Review  

"A fine new biography. . . Biskupic’s book is a reminder of just how political Justice O’Connor was before she got on the Court and after, and why she will be so missed when she leaves."
—Adam Cohen, New York Times

"In this fascinating and revealing biography … Joan Biskupic shows how O’Connor became one of the most powerful women in the nation. . . The book has fascinating tidbits about life inside the Court. . . The book also sheds light on the personal side of O’Connor."
—Bill Adair, St. Petersburg Times

"In her book, we get a sense of the atmosphere in the offices of the marbled place few Americans ever see.  … The overwhelming impression from Biskupic’s careful and perceptive work is that the Supreme Court is not so much an assemblage of legal colleagues as it is a corps of generals, each with equal authority, equal powers and equal opportunity to make a mark or fade to insignificance, depending on how they negotiate votes among themselves."
James R. Carroll,  Louisville Courier Journal

"Well-researched and carefully argued. . . Biskupic’s account of Sandra Day O’Connor’s life and times adds much to our understanding of one of the venerable institutions of American government."
—Tom Kazee, Charlotte Observer

"Biskupic’s careful reportage provides abundant tools for a fresh appraisal. . . She is a disciplined reporter, and, like her subject, the biography emerges as an incrementalist work, avoiding the glib generalities that have emerged in works on the Court from both left and right. She leavens her account with material from interviews about O'Connor from seven of her eight colleagues, a remarkable achievement, since the justices are notoriously reticent. Biskupic is particularly compelling on the dynamic between O’Connor and the other justices, and on how the dynamic among them may have affected O’Connor’s approach."
—Cliff Sloan, Slate

"Longtime journalist Joan Biskupic, a veteran Supreme Court reporter for The Washington Post and USA Today, illuminates the life of Sandra Day O'Connor in this fascinating biography. … This enlightening biography elucidates O'Connor's career while simultaneously examining the personal influences that have molded this woman of courage."
—Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch

"The book is a readable, insightful investigation… . The author carefully traces the evolution of Mrs. O’Connor’s views, amid the often-sharp exchanges with her fellow justices, on affirmative action, abortion rights, the death penalty and religious freedom."
—John M. Taylor and Priscilla S. Taylor, The Washington Times

"A brisk and thorough new biography. … As Biskupic writes in her smart book, ‘Once (Justice O’Connor) found the middle, she never left it. She would neither drive the culture of the nation, nor seriously upset it.’ "
—John Pickering, Bloomberg News

"[Biskupic’s] extensive discussion of O’Connor’s views and votes concerning abortion and the status of Roe [v. Wade] is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand or influence the future of reproductive choice. … The book’s greatest contributions, though, come in Biskupic’s treatment of less prominent issues and the more complete pictures she paints of both O’Connor and the Court. … [T]his ‘justice in the middle’ actually led the Court in the direction of curtailing the rights of criminal defendants, expanding judicial protection of state sovereignty, and limiting Congress’ powers to enact legislation protective of rights."
—Dawn Johnsen, Legal Times

"Sandra Day O’Connor takes you behind the closed doors of the Supreme Court to reveal how Justice O’Connor helped craft landmark decisions on abortion, affirmative action, and a host of other critical issues. Joan Biskupic has broken new ground in reporting on O’Connor’s life and historic role on the High Court. This lively, fast-paced account will make people rethink how they view this extraordinary woman and her fellow justices. An indispensable read for anyone interested in politics, the law, and power as exercised by one of the most fascinating women of our time."
—Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, NBC News

"This book sensitively illuminates the life of Justice O’Connor and her work on the Supreme Court. You come away from it inspired by her discipline, courage, dedication to duty, and with a better understanding of how she and the other justices reached their decisions. Beautifully done."
—Janet Reno, former Attorney General of the United States, 1993—2001

"This book is insightful, energetic, full of nuggets--and at times quite moving. It is wonderfully illuminating about Justice O’Connor; more than that, it may well be the best account of the contemporary Supreme Court."
—Cass R. Sunstein, Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor, Law School and Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

"If you want to know what America will lose with the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor, the full measure of her epic story is here. Joan Biskupic reveals a backstage role for the Supreme Court justice that makes her even more influential than her controlling vote on so many 5-4 decisions. And she illuminates a personality even more engaging and intriguing than the public figure we have come to know. This is a compelling story about one of the mighty figures in the history of our times."
—David S. Broder, Columnist, Washington Post

"Joan Biskupic is one of our country’s most insightful writers about the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O’Connor is one of the most consequential Supreme Court justices in American history. So this book is a blessing, an engaging, shrewd and thoughtful biography appearing at exactly the moment when Americans are coming to terms with O’Connor’s complex legacy and achievement. It will influence our view of the Court for years to come."
—E.J. Dionne Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution