Sonia Sotomayor

#womenshistoryProfilesFebruary 27, 2023

Sonia Sotomayor is the first woman of color, the first Hispanic, and first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court.

A graduate of Princeton University, Sotomayor’s activism and advocacy on campus was critical to ensuring the Ivy League school reevaluated its practices. After noticing discriminatory practices in both hiring and curriculum during her sophomore year at Princeton, Sotomayor requested a meeting with the university president to flag the issue. With no resolution coming out of that meeting, she filed a formal complaint with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare outlining the issues. As a result, the university, which had no full-time Latino faculty at the time, began to hire Latino faculty and established an ongoing dialogue with Sotomayor and others to ensure progress. Her activism also resulted in Princeton’s first seminar on Puerto Rican history and politics.  

Early in her career, Sotomayor served as an assistant district attorney in New York where she struggled to work within a system that perpetuated marginalization of people in her own community. As a prosecutor she tried to focus her work on crimes of violence and police brutality, noting the systemic inequities contributing to the issues of criminality and violence.

As a judge, Sotomayor had notable rulings, including one which prevented Major League Baseball from unilaterally implementing a collective bargaining agreement that would have allowed the use of replacement players, forcing the league back to the bargaining table with its players. Other notable rulings involved employment discrimination, abortion, First, Second, and Fourth Amendment rights, and property rights. 

After her nomination to the Supreme Court by President Obama in 2009, Sotomayor faced vocal opposition from conservatives but was confirmed, becoming one of just six women to have served on the Supreme Court. 

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