Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the nation’s high court, has died, the Supreme Court announced.

Farewell Sandra O’Connor

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who forged a path for women in the law, championed ideological compromise and educated generations of Americans about the rights and duties of citizenship, has died at age 93.

Sandra Day O’Connor during her college years.

O’Connor died Friday morning in Phoenix, Arizona, of complications related to advanced dementia, probably Alzheimer’s, and a respiratory illness, the Supreme Court said in a statement.

In a statement, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. praised O’Connor as a history-making justice with a fierce independent streak.

President Ronald Reagan presents his nominee to the court to members of the media in the Rose Garden on July 15, 1981.

O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the nation’s highest court, shattering two centuries of male-dominated jurisprudence with widely-celebrated poise, humanity and independence.

Historians consider her one of the most consequential women in American history.

“The law was a male thing. The Supreme Court was a male place. Merely her presence there as a woman changed everything,” said Evan Thomas, O’Connor’s official biographer.

‘Connor waves after her unanimous confirmation on Capitol Hill on Sept. 21, 1981. Standing with O’Connor, from left: Attorney General William French Smith, Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., Vice President George Bush, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C

While few considered her an ideologue, O’Connor was a loyal Republican, embracing the values of smaller government, self-reliance and social conservatism that the party of the 1980s represented.

“She came from the country-club wing of the party,” said author Linda Hirshman, whose book “Sisters in Law” chronicles the relationship between O’Connor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “She had a libertarian streak. But Sandra Day O’Connor did not have a clear philosophy.”

“We at the Supreme Court mourn the loss of a beloved colleague, a fiercely independent defender of the rule of law, and an eloquent advocate for civics education. And we celebrate her enduring legacy as a true public servant and patriot.” 

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