Meet the four women who preceded Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court

Staff, USA TODAY
·5 min read

In a 52-48 vote on Monday night, Amy Coney Barrett became the fifth woman to be confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.

Coney Barrett, a 48-year-old U.S. Court of Appeals judge nominated by President Donald Trump, fills the seat left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a staunch liberal and feminist icon who died Sept. 18.

Coney Barrett will join two other women, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, on the bench. The first woman confirmed to the Supreme Court, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, retired in 2006.

Earlier this year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment, which secured the right to vote for American women, USA TODAY released Women of the Century, a comprehensive look at women from around the U.S. who made an impact on their community and country over the past 100 years.

Today, we're republishing the profiles of the women who have served on the Supreme Court, breaking some of the strongest barriers as they ascended to the highest court in the land.

Sandra Day O’Connor

First woman named to the U.S. Supreme Court

(1930- )

SANDRA DAY OCONNOR
SANDRA DAY OCONNOR

Sandra Day O’Connor gained international recognition as the first woman to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she held a seat on the nation’s highest court for nearly 25 years. The court grew more conservative during her tenure, and O’Connor frequently became the key vote that determined important cases.

O'Connor was born in El Paso, but she is Arizonan through and through. Raised on the dusty, isolated Lazy B Ranch in southeastern Arizona, she was a pioneer all her life.

She enrolled at Stanford University at age 16 and graduated from law school at 22.

O’Connor was Arizona’s first woman to serve as Senate majority leader, and then became a trial and appeals court judge in the state.

After her retirement from the Supreme Court in 2006, she continued to advocate for civics education in the U.S. and judicial independence across the globe.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court justice

(1933-2020)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by Democratic President Bill Clinton; she took the oath of office on Aug 10, 1993, and remained on the bench until she died Sept. 18. A teacher, mother, wife and champion for women's rights, she was the second of only four women confirmed to the court.

Ruth Joan Bader was born in Brooklyn in 1933. She graduated first in her class from Cornell University and was the first woman on the Harvard Law Review before transferring to Columbia Law School, where she again made law review and graduated first in her class. Ginsburg litigated sex discrimination cases for the American Civil Liberties Union and was instrumental in creating its Women's Rights project in 1972.

Before her appointment to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980 by Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

Sonia Sotomayor

First Latina Supreme Court justice

(1954- )

Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor, a native of the Bronx, is America's first Latina Supreme Court justice. She has served as an associate justice since 2009.

The daughter of immigrants from Puerto Rico, Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976, then attended Yale Law School, where she edited the law journal. After graduating in 1979, Sotomayor worked as an assistant district attorney and in private practice in New York.

Sotomayor was appointed as a federal judge in the Southern District of New York in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican. Five years later, Republican senators delayed Sotomayor's appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for a year over fears she might be headed to the Supreme Court.

Democratic President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court when Justice David Souter retired. She wrote a memoir, "My Beloved World," in 2013.

Women of the Century: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eleanor Roosevelt and Sonia Sotomayor on DC list of influential women

Elena Kagan

U.S. Supreme Court justice

(1960- )

Elena Kagan
Elena Kagan

Born in New York, Elena Kagan was somewhat of an unconventional choice for the Supreme Court because she is one of a handful of justices who have never previously worked as a judge.

Before being nominated to the court in 2010 by President Barack Obama, Kagan served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton, worked briefly as the U.S. solicitor general under Obama — the first woman to hold that title — and was the first-ever woman named dean of Harvard Law School, serving from 2003-09.

Kagan went to Princeton for her undergraduate degree and earned her law degree from Harvard in 1986; she was editor of the Harvard Law Review. In 1987, she clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who gave her the nickname “shorty” (Marshall, at 6-foot-2, towered over Kagan, who is 5-foot-3).

A longtime law professor, Kagan taught at the University of Chicago Law School before moving on to Harvard Law.

Though she typically votes with the liberal justices, Kagan is considered more centrist and has been referred to as a “bridge builder.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meet the women who preceded Amy Coney Barrett on the US Supreme Court