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From Triumph To Tragedy, 'First' Tells Story Of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

First is unlike any other book written about the justice. Evan Thomas breaks new ground with extraordinary access to O'Connor, her papers, journals — and even 20 years of her husband's diary.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor receives the Anam Cara Award at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix, Az. on Jan. 16, 2014. Source: Mike Moore

Late last year, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor issued a statement announcing that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. It was a poignant moment, a reminder that for decades O'Connor was seen as the most powerful woman in America.

Now comes an important book about her — First, Sandra Day O'Connor: An Intimate Portrait of the First Woman Supreme Court Justice. It is unlike every other volume written about O'Connor — even the books the justice wrote about herself.

For those too young to remember, O'Connor was so admired on the public stage that there were even suggestions she run for president. She had no interest in that, but her vote and her approach to judging dominated the U.S Supreme Court for a quarter century, until her retirement in 2006.

Whether the subject was affirmative action, states' rights, national security, or abortion, hers was often the voice that spoke for the court.

Author Evan Thomas breaks new ground with First. With extraordinary access to the justice, her papers, her personal journals — and even 20 years of her husband's diary — the book is, in a sense, an authorized biography. But it is considerably more.

It is an unvarnished and psychologically intuitive look at the nation's first woman Supreme Court justice, and some of her contradictory characteristics. She was tough, bossy, relentless and, beneath that, she could be emotional. In private, she was not afraid to

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