During the 1950s, as Betty Friedan wrote in The Feminine Mystique, "women who had once wanted careers were now making careers out of having babies." Sandra Day O'Connor was not one of these women. She spent the first few years of the decade at Stanford and the rest looking for work. At that time, no firm would hire a female lawyer. (In contrast, her classmate William Rehnquist immediately landed a position as a Supreme Court clerk.)
Since leaving the Supreme Court five years ago, O'Connor has often been condemned for meddling in national affairs instead of maintaining a cool, Sphinx-like silence. A Wall-Street Journal op-ed last fall accused her of "wield[ing] her political clout to push citizens to abandon their own politics." Here, in conversation with George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen, O'Connor blends professional experience with personal conviction to explain why she feels compelled to speak out against judicial elections.