About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for First: Sandra Day O’Connor, An American Life

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
April 24, 2019 

Good evening, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for tonight’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Before we hear from Evan Thomas about his new book, First: Sandra Day O’Connor, An American Life, I’d like to let you know about two other programs coming up next week.

On Monday, April 29, at noon, historian Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers will tell us about her new book, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South. While bridging women’s history, the history of the South, and African American history, Jones-Rogers’s book prompts a rethinking of women’s history and the history of slavery.

And on Tuesday, April 30, at noon, Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris will introduce us to Hugh Mangum, an itinerant photographer who traveled through North Carolina and Virginia in the late 19th century. Their book, Where We Find Ourselves: The Photographs of Hugh Mangum, 1897–1922, reveals an unparalleled view of life in the American South during a turbulent time of history.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Visit its website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about the Foundation and join online.

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Tonight’s discussion is part of a series of programs related to our new exhibit opening on May 10—Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.

Rightfully Hers commemorates the centennial of the 19th Amendment and tells the story of women’s struggle for voting rights as a critical step toward equal citizenship.

In the exhibit, a series of “spotlights” will relate the stories of ground-breaking women who played critical roles in the fight for equality—not just the vote but in opportunities and fair treatment.

In the second half of the 20th century, Sandra Day O’Connor broke through barriers throughout her career in the law and famously became the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In a review for NPR, Nina Totenberg declares that “Author Evan Thomas breaks new ground with First. . . . It is an unvarnished and psychologically intuitive look at the nation's first female Supreme Court justice, and some of her contradictory characteristics.”

Jeffrey Toobin, writing in the New York Times, calls First “a richly detailed picture of her personal and professional life” and a “fascinating and revelatory biography.”

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Evan Thomas is one of the most respected historians and journalists writing today. He is the bestselling author of 10 works of nonfiction, including works on John Paul Jones, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Barack Obama. In his 24 years as an editor and writer at Newsweek, he wrote more than a hundred cover stories.

Thomas has won numerous journalism awards, including the National Magazine Award.

Evan Thomas is a fellow of the Society of American Historians and has taught writing at Princeton and Harvard.


Michael Beschloss has long been a great friend of the National Archives and serves as a Vice President of the Board of Directors of the National Archives Foundation. He is an award-winning historian, bestselling author, and Emmy winner. He is the NBC News Presidential Historian and a contributor to PBS NewsHour. In addition to his work with the National Archives Foundation, he is a trustee of the White House Historical Association and former trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Evan Thomas and Michael Beschloss.