Women's History History - Sonia Sotomayor
Born on June 25, 1954, in New York City, Sonia Sotomayor is the first Supreme Court justice of Hispanic descent. Nominated to the Court by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009, she is the third female to have served and is among the youngest on the current Court (2016).
Sotomayor's first interest in law began after watching an episode of the television show Perry Mason. She recalled in 1998: "I was going to college and I was going to become an attorney, and I knew that when I was ten. Ten. That's no jest.”
Sotomayor was born in The Bronx, New York City, to Puerto Rican-born parents. Her father died when she was nine, and she was raised by her mother. Her mother placed a strong emphasis on a higher education, pushing her children to become fluent in English and making huge sacrifices to purchase a set of encyclopedias that would give them proper research materials for school. Sotomayor graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School and earned a full scholarship to Princeton University, from which she graduated in 1976 with highest honors. She received her law degree from Yale Law School in 1979. While at Yale, she was an editor at the Yale Law Journal.
Sotomayor passed the bar in 1980 and immediately began work as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. In 1984 Sotomayor entered private practice while serving on the boards of several organizations. It was at this time that she gained the attention of Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who were partially responsible for her appointment as U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York City. On her 43rd birthday, June 25, 1997, she was nominated for U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton. In addition to her work in the Court of Appeals, Sotomayor also began teaching adjunct law at New York University in 1998 and at Columbia Law School in 1999.
Sotomayor maintains a public presence, mostly through making speeches. She frequently speaks at university commencements where her talks focus primarily on ethnic identity and experience, the need for diversity, and America's struggle with the implications of its diverse population.