Out to Lunch With Sandra Day O'Connor
March 20, 2013
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The first woman on the Supreme Court talks theatrics, guns, and prairie oysters.
BY JOHN HEILPERN ILLUSTRATION BY TIM SHEAFFER
Sandra Day O’Connor met me for lunch at her chambers within that white marble temple to justice, the Supreme Court Building, in Washington, D.C. I was unprepared for the informality and glamour of this mythic American woman. “Sandra,” she said, introducing herself warmly, adding the “Day O’Connor” almost, it seemed, as an afterthought. “So, come sit.”
Her delightful new book, Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court (published this month by Random House), gives the forbidding Court a human face, and Justice O’Connor, I would soon learn, could give it nothing less.
The FWOTSC, as she amusingly describes herself—First Woman On The Supreme Court—was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1930, and raised as a cowgirl on the family’s Lazy B Ranch, in the high-desert country south of the Gila River, on the border of Arizona and New Mexico. Since her retirement from the Court, in 2006, she’s lived in Phoenix, but she still uses her office whenever she’s in town. “They haven’t kicked you out?” I asked.
“Not yet, anyway,” she replied.
I mentioned that one can’t help but feel awed by the iconic grandeur of the Supreme Court Building. “I agree. I do, too,” she said.
“Except it unnerves me a bit—as if I’ve got something to prove.”
“Well, you don’t,” she responded with characteristic directness. “So we’ll get over that!”
She became a feminist icon