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Sandra Day O'Connor honored as trailblazer: first woman on Supreme Court

First woman Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor remembered as trailblazer, mourned by Vice President Harris, services set for Tuesday.

Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, was honored in Washington on Monday as a trailblazer who always considered the impact of the court's decisions on all Americans. O'Connor, a native of Arizona, passed away on December 1 at the age of 93. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff were among the mourners at the court. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke at a private ceremony, emphasizing O'Connor's commitment to not being the last woman on the court.

O'Connor's body was carried up the court steps by her seven grandchildren as honorary pallbearers and lay in repose in the Great Hall for the public to pay their respects. Funeral services are scheduled for Tuesday at the Washington National Cathedral, with President Joe Biden and Chief Justice John Roberts as speakers.

Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, O'Connor ended 191 years of male exclusivity on the high court. She was known for her understanding of the American people and her influence on the court's rulings, particularly on abortion. O'Connor also played a key role in bringing the justices together with regular lunches and social events.

She grew up on a ranch in Arizona and, after graduating from Stanford Law School, built a career in public service before her appointment to the Supreme Court at age 51. O'Connor retired at age 75, citing her husband's struggle with Alzheimer's disease as her primary reason for leaving the court. She remained active after her retirement, advocating for judicial independence and serving on the Iraq Study Group.

O'Connor died in Phoenix of complications related to advanced dementia and a respiratory illness. She is survived by her three sons, six grandchildren, and a brother. The family has requested that donations be made to iCivics, the group she founded to promote civics education.

The last justice to lay in repose at the court was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female justice. After her death in 2020, mourners passed by her casket outside the building during the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Sherman of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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