Sandra Day O'Connor may have been Sandra Day Rehnquist, had a certain former chief justice had his way a few decades ago.
O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, and William Rehnquist, who was the court's chief justice until his death in 2005, were more than just classmates at Stanford University back in 1949. They dated for a few months, and Rehnquist even proposed to O'Connor, an O'Connor biographer told NPR on Wednesday.
O'Connor and Rehnquist both began at Stanford in 1949, though the 26-year-old Rehnquist was older than O'Connor's 19, as he was studying through the G.I. Bill. They became seatmates and "study buddies," and dated until O'Connor broke things off in their second year at school, reports NPR. She soon started seeing John O'Connor, apparently going on 40 dates in 40 days.
But Rehnquist, who'd graduated in December 1951, didn't seem to know that. He wrote a blunt note to O'Connor the following March, asking "to be specific, Sandy, will you marry me this summer?," letters uncovered by O'Connor's biographer Evan Thomas reveal. Of course, O'Connor said no, marrying John later that year. Rehnquist apparently wasn't heartbroken for long, marrying Nan Cornell in 1953 and later telling a friend she was "the only woman he ever loved," per NPR.
Both of the justices' families knew the pair had dated, but were surprised to hear about the proposal. Still, there were no hard feelings, and Rehnquist supposedly even recommended O'Connor for her history-making spot on the Supreme Court. Read more about O'Connor and Rehnquist's hidden romance at NPR. Kathryn Krawczyk