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Summary

New York Times best seller • The intimate, inspiring, and authoritative biography of Sandra Day O’Connor, America’s first female Supreme Court justice, drawing on exclusive interviews and first-time access to Justice O’Connor’s archives.

"She’s a hero for our time, and this is the biography for our time." (Walter Isaacson)

Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR and The Washington Post

She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her law school class in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings - doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.

She became the first ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the US Supreme Court, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the Court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law. Diagnosed with cancer at 58 and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.

Women and men who want to be leaders and be first in their own lives - who want to learn when to walk away and when to stand their ground - will be inspired by O’Connor’s example. This is a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family, who believed in serving her country, and who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for all women.

Praise for First:

"Cinematic...poignant...illuminating and eminently readable...First gives us a real sense of Sandra Day O’Connor the human being.... Thomas gives O’Connor the credit she deserves." (The Washington Post

"[A] fascinating and revelatory biography...a richly detailed picture of [O’Connor’s] personal and professional life...Evan Thomas’s book is not just a biography of a remarkable woman, but an elegy for a worldview that, in law as well as politics, has disappeared from the nation’s main stages." (The New York Times Book Review)

©2019 Evan Thomas (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"She rose to fame as the first female Supreme Court justice, but during her twenty-four years on the bench she became even more: the most powerful justice of our era. With practical instincts and sharp intellect, she crafted sensible compromises on affirmative action, abortion, and other contentious issues. She embodies the virtues we sorely lack today: decency, honesty, balance, and a nobility worn lightly. With amazing access to her journals and papers, Evan Thomas has written a brilliant and riveting book that captures her principles and personality. She’s a hero for our time, and this is the biography for our time." (Walter Isaacson, number one New York Times best-selling author of Leonardo Da Vinci)

"An unvarnished and psychologically intuitive look at the nation's first female Supreme Court justice...Thomas breaks new ground with First...unlike every other volume written about O'Connor." (NPR)

"A great storyteller has found his greatest subject in trailblazer Sandra Day O’Connor. Evan Thomas has written one of the most insightful and thoroughly captivating biographies I have ever read: A clear and compelling illumination of Sandra Day O’Connor’s unique voice and place in American history is told through her remarkable life’s journey from a rancher’s daughter to the first woman appointed to the highest court in the land." (Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Leadership: In Turbulent Times)

What listeners say about First

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  • Brooke H
  • 10-04-19

Enthralling

This book was well written and truly fascinating. I’m thankful to have listened and I’m glad to know more about the incredibly life of O’Connor. Truly inspirational

4 people found this helpful

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  • KathrynVB
  • 05-04-19

Remarkable woman, well served in this book.

I am a female attorney with strong liberal views. This book about SOC satisfied my curiosity about America's first female Justice of the SCOTUS and never offended my left leanings. In fact, it impressed me with its confirmation that justices with great personal integrity, rather than rigid ideology, generally decide cases with a liberal bent rather than a conservative one.
I was not surprised to learn that a researcher who had created a system to analyze a judge's leanings over time was able to prove that SOC became much more liberal in her decisions as her decades of jurisprudence evolved.

SOC lived her values. She valued civility and personal relationships with her fellow justices and law clerks, and treated them with a touch of motherly attention. She valued decisiveness and never backed down from the tough decisions foisted on her as a judge. She had a pillow in her chambers, embroidered with the slogan "Maybe in error, Never in doubt". She was a decider.

Excellent book, excellent narrator. Worth your time and credit.

6 people found this helpful

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  • travis
  • 17-04-19

LOVED Kirsten Potters narration !

This book captures so much of Sandra and her incredible and inspiring journey but what made me come back to it day after day was Kristen’s reading / narration. The excitement and enthusiasm was ..... AMAZING! I look forward to hearing more from her.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kristen
  • 14-09-21

Inspiring

I chose this book because I was looking for inspiration by a great American, and First was a better choice than I could have imagined. Not only is this a biography for the ages about a real-life super heroine whose career and life set dozens of wonderful examples for everyone, the research and writing are fabulous and the narration top notch. One of the best books I have come across.
across in a long time.

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  • Veneranda Bogaert
  • 06-09-21

Informative

I had no preconceived ideas on her life or career. I am not one who judges by race, sex or political status/beliefs. I am an "individual" and trust that all humans are also. I thank you for the opportunity to get a small peek into a remarkable individuals life and experiences.

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  • Peter Ryers
  • 15-07-21

First Class

Don’t ever miss anything Evan Thomas writes. Kirsten Potter is first class as well. Terrific!

1 person found this helpful

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  • kevin
  • 02-05-21

labor of love

a beautiful story that seemed more like a labor of love for the author. enjoying to read, and wonderful to learn more about this amazing figure of history.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anna
  • 15-03-21

A well-written biography about an amazing woman

The writing is very good, and the story is great. The research was well done, and the inputs and perspectives from so many first-hand sources was beautifully incorporated.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-07-20

Amazing insight

This gave an amazing level into what Justice O’Connor had to go through. The author creates a clear timeline that goes from story to finish. You really feel like you know the Justice better. Highly recommended.

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  • SteelMagnolia
  • 06-05-20

Great Book

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Judge O'Connor is a tremendous example of what one can accomplish in a lifetime by forging ahead and making your own path. It would have been very easy for her to stop at any level in her career bit she knew she could make a difference and she did! I highly recommend this to all, but especially to women. She is a remarkable role model for us all and the world is better for having had her on the Supreme Court.