Sisters in Law: Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg


The backgrounds and experiences of the first two women to sit on the Supreme court, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, were for the most part totally different. In addition to looking at their disparate background and experiences, this SDG will focus on whether they also differed on the hot-button legal issues that came before the Court. By examining their decisions, we will consider their views on such issues as legislative classifications on the basis of sex, the height of the wall separating church and state, a woman's right to control her reproductive function,voting rights and the limitations on gerrymandering, and Bush v. Gore. Our catalogue of issues will also include the extent to which governments and educational institutions can take race into account, the standards to determine whether actionable sexual harassment occurred, and the relative powers of the states and the federal government in our constitutional system. As we go through these cases, we will consider their fundamental views of the Constitution and decision making.

Weekly Topics

1. Background and experience of O'Connor prior to elevation to the Supreme court

2. Background and experience of Ginsburg prior to elevation to the Supreme Court

3. Constitutional law in the schoolhouse

4. Roe v. Wade and its progeny

5.  Voting rights, gerrymandering and Bush v. Gore

6. Affirmative action 

7. Searches, seizures and the 4th amendment

8.  Cruel and unusual punishment and other issues affecting the criminal justice system

9. Classifications in the law based on gender

10.Discrimination against women in the workplace 

11.The limitations, if any, on the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution

12. The separation of church and state under both the Constitution and the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act 

13. Classifications based on sexual orientation

14. Free speech and money in politics 


Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman, First-Sandra Day O'Connor by Evan Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Jane Sherron De Hart and Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik