Attorney General William French Smith placed a call to Sandra Day O’Connor, a 51-year-old appeals court judge in Arizona, to tell her she was being considered for a “federal position.”

“It must be a secretarial position, is it not?” she joked. O’Connor knew that Smith was from the Los Angeles law firm of Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher—one of many she had applied to when she graduated from Stanford Law in 1952. The only job she was offered was as secretary. The attorney general pretended he hadn’t heard her.

— From When everything changed… by Gail Collins.

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