Segments in this Video

Meet Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (02:07)


In 1981, President Reagan nominated the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the first woman justice on the Supreme Court.

Workplace Discrimination (01:53)

Despite graduating third in her Stanford Law School class, O'Connor had trouble finding a job as a lawyer. O'Connor describes her job in the public sector and its influence on her aspirations.

O'Connor's Volunteer Work (01:47)

After having two children and taking 5 years off from work, O'Connor was afraid she would never get a job. She did law-related volunteer work.

O'Connor's Work for Arizona Attorney General (02:46)

After 5 years of volunteering, O'Connor finally got a job assistanting Arizona's Attorney General. She describes her work with Arizona's state hospital for the mentally ill. When she became a legislator, she worked to improve laws surrounding mental health care.

O'Connor Serves in State Senate (02:06)

O'Connor describes how she became Arizona's first female senator. She says she takes jobs that give her "an opportunity to do something interesting."

O'Connor on Gender Discrimination (02:02)

O'Connor was the first woman to become Senate Majority Leader. She says Arizona is accepting of women in politics. O'Connor describes her childhood; she recalls feeling insecure as a young woman, but wanting to try things nonetheless.

U.S. History - Women in the Law (03:01)

An inspirational professor influenced O'Connor to apply to law school. We hear a brief history of discrimination against women in the field of law dating back to the 1800s. O'Connor pays tribute to powerful historical women like Myra Bradwell who was denied access to practice law in the 1800s.

Balancing Career and Family (02:31)

O'Connor addresses the demands of her various roles: mother, wife, and career woman, O'Connor says efficiency, time management, and flexible work hours are key to success.

Justice Moves Slowly (02:07)

Justice O'Connor says "law is a reflection of the mores of the time." She discusses why women have not found equality in history. O'Connor agrees that sometimes law incorporates and reflects prejudices--some of which we aren't even aware.

A Great Victory for the Women's Movment (02:03)

O'Connor considers what it meant for women when she was appointed Supreme Court Justice.

How O'Connor's Experience Shapes Her Legal Opinion (02:56)

O'Connor says the "bulk of my experience is in state government," when Moyers points out her writings are commonly directed towards preserving state power. O'Connor was influenced by the years spent in various positions in Arizona's legal system. We hear some of her written opinions.

Affirmitive Action for Women (03:40)

In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court said that employers may promote women ahead of white males. O'Connor endorsed the court's judgement, but refused to join the majority opinion because it was too broad and ill defined. Hear her response.

Legal Issues a Continuing Dialogue (00:49)

O'Connor discusses problems that are encountered when the court makes a final decision. She says legal issues are constant dialogues between the courts, congress, and the nation.

Roe v. Wade (02:31)

See archival footage of the backlash in 1973's Roe v. Wade decision, which was reaffirmed in 1983.

O'Connor on Roe v. Wade (01:45)

O'Connor explains why she described Roe v. Wade as a case "on a collision course with itself." She expands on the subject of abortion in the courts.

Interpreting the Constitution (01:17)

O'Connor addresses the difficulties in interpreting the Constitution. She tries to keep an open mind when approaching new cases that are similar to older cases.

What Cases to Take? (02:05)

O'Connor discusses what she and other justices look for when they vote to accept a case. She says cases with similar issues appear around the same time, and "in bunches."

Conflict Between Federal Law and State Statutes (02:11)

O'Connor clarifies some common misunderstandings about what the Supreme Court does and does not do--it does not make policy. She explains the Supremacy Clause.

Texas v. White (03:20)

O'Connor elaborates on a quote from Texas v. White, which says "the Constitution looks to an indestructible union composed of indestructible states." She describes the power struggle between state and federal government.

When State Governments Work in Malicious Ways (02:23)

O'Connor discusses the historical use of states' powers to enforce slavery. Congress was refraining from exercising its commerce power to prevent states from regulating slavery. She says the power of Congress touches all Americans.

Constitution as Our National Charter (02:37)

O'Connor discusses the ways in which Constitution is a vital and remains important to Americans. O'Connor discusses the Founding Fathers' ingenuity in creating the Constitution.

Equal Justice Under the Law (01:38)

O'Connor assumes that the founding fathers would be surprised a woman is helping to interpret the Constitution. She discusses the inherent difficulty of the task of deciding what is equal justice under the law.

Real Persuasion Done in Writing (02:32)

O'Connor describes the voting procedures among the justices after an oral argument. She says the justices hold one another in high regard." She explains that most of the persuasion among justices is done through writing.

Final thoughts from a Supreme Court Justice (01:22)

O'Connor says her job is fascinating. She discusses the array of issues she encounters as a justice.

Credits: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (01:50)

Credits: Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

For additional digital leasing and purchase options contact a media consultant at 800-257-5126
(press option 3) or

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Part of the Series : In Search of the Constitution
DVD Price: $79.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $119.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $79.95



In this candid interview with Bill Moyers, Sandra Day O’Connor discusses women’s rights within the context of her role as the Supreme Court’s first woman Justice, and the Constitution. Justice O’Connor reveals her own difficulties in breaking into the male-dominated legal profession, how she balanced work with family, and how her ultimate ascent from assistant attorney in the Arizona State Attorney’s Office, to the state’s first female senator, led to her Supreme Court appointment. Citing Constitutional precedents, O’Connor defends several controversial opinions on the issues of affirmative action and abortion. (60 minutes)

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL4913

ISBN: 978-1-4213-8300-2

Copyright date: ©1987

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.