O'Connor's first major Supreme Court opinion, in Mississippi University for Women vs. Hogan, began the process of changing the law of gender discrimination, allowing a man admission to a women's nursing college because to do otherwise "lends credibility to the old view that women, not men, should become nurses." She was the swing vote in Price Waterhouse vs. Hopkins, finding discrimination had been "a substantial factor" in a decision not to promote a woman to partnership, and in Jackson vs. Birmingham Board of Education, allowing a whistle-blower to sue for retaliation in gender-discrimination circumstances. Her vote in Davis vs. Monroe allowed a girl who'd been subjected to relentless sexual taunts by a classmate to sue the school for allowing a hostile environment to go unchecked.
The truth is that wise men and wise women do sometimes reach different conclusions: Jennifer L. Peresie, writing in the Yale Law Journal, found that women claiming sexual harassment or gender discrimination were twice as likely to prevail when a female judge was included on the bench, an effect independent of judicial ideology.
Despite O'Connor's record on gender rights, though, she by no means always pleased women's rights advocates, much less liberals as a whole. Her swing votes allowed substantial limitations on abortion rights, affirmative action and gun control, and her vote in Bush vs. Gore gave George W. Bush the presidency. She disappointed conservatives too, and not only with respect to gender discrimination. She limited school prayer, expanded gay rights and allowed campaign finance reform. O'Connor was a woman who voted her conscience.