OMINOUS, "UNSETTLED" TIMES
THE SUPREME COURT STOPPED being a gentleman's club in 1981. After 101 male justices, the nation's highest court finally got its first woman. The court's 191-year history preceding that appointment was steeped in male bias. It had long held, for example, that state laws forbidding women to vote did not violate the 14th Amendment's 1868 guarantee of equal protection. Male lawmakers had to amend the Constitution in 1920 for women to gain voting rights. Not until 1971 did the court strike down any law for sex discrimination. A decade later, anticipating that a woman would soon join their elite ranks, the men of the court privately agreed to stop calling themselves "brethren." And their title of address was neutered—"Mr. Justice So-and-So" became simply "Justice So-and-So." One patriarchal flourish survived: "Mr. Chief Justice."
Supreme Court appointments are often one of the most enduring parts of a president's legacy. (A quarter century after President Nixon resigned in disgrace, Nixon appointee Rehnquist was still on the court.) President Carter had hoped that his legacy would include appointing the first female justice. Instead, as progressives' bad luck would have it, Carter became the first full-term president in history not to leave a mark on the nation's highest court.
Just months after the Democratic Carter left office, Justice Stewart, an Eisenhower appointee and former Republican elected official, stepped down, giving the new Republican president, Ronald Reagan, the opportunity to make the first of what would be three Supreme Court appointments. Keeping a campaign pledge to put a woman on