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Harvard Journal of Law and Gender Online


Four women have served as Associate Justices on the United States Supreme Court. Since the Court’s inception in 1789, 162 individuals have been nominated to serve as Supreme Court Justices. Five nominees, or roughly 3 percent, have been women. To help put this gender dearth in perspective, more men named “Samuel” have served as Supreme Court Justices than women. Thirteen U.S. Presidents have nominated more people to the Supreme Court than the total number of women that have served on the Court. Finally, there are currently more Catholics serving on the Supreme Court than the number of women appointed in the Court’s entire history. Women, once thought of as “one-at-a-time-curiosities” on the bench, now constitute nearly one-third of all state and federal judges. Qualified women were available for selection for many years—long before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the Supreme Court, or FWOTSC, as she refers to herself. It was not until a 1980 campaign promise by then-Governor Ronald Reagan to appoint the first female justice to the Supreme Court that a woman broke one of our government’s last gender barriers. Presidents prior to that time allowed male members of the Court, among other influences, to stave off appointments of well-qualified women. So, women waited. But now women account for four of the last twelve Supreme Court appointments and five of the past 16 nominees. Clearly, their numbers are increasing. This paper presents the second scholarly ranking of female jurists deserving of a seat on the highest court in the land. The list celebrates eleven judicial way pavers: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Florence Allen, Constance Baker Motley, Shirley Huftstedler, Patricia Wald, Cornelia Kennedy, Harriet Miers and, Belva Lockwood. Each of these women is or was Supreme Court-worthy.

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Harvard Law School

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