In its 220-year history, only four women justices have served on the Supreme Court: Sandra Day O'Connor (1981-2005); Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993-present); Sonia Sotomayor (2009-present) and former U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan (2010-present). The latter two, nominated by President Barack Obama, each earned a distinct footnote in history. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 6, 2009, Sotomayor became the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court. When Kagan was confirmed on August 5, 2010, she changed the gender composition of the court as the third woman to serve simultaneously. As of October 2010, the Supreme Court became one-third female for the first time in its history.
The Supreme Court's first two women hailed from significantly different ideological backgrounds. The court's first female justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, was nominated by a Republican president in 1981 and was regarded as a conservative pick. The second female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was the choice of a Democratic president in 1993 and widely viewed as liberal.
The two women served together until O'Connor's retirement in 2005. Ginsburg remained as the lone female justice on the Supreme Court until Sonia Sotomayor took the bench in the fall of 2009.
Ginsburg's future as a justice remains uncertain; a February 2009 diagnosis of pancreatic cancer suggests she may need to step down if her health worsens.
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