I graduated from law school in 1981. Law School was full of women then. The editor-in-chief of the Law Review was a woman both years I was on. The top three students in the class were women. It wasn't like: Wow, there's a woman on the Supreme Court -- now, I see that women can go into the field of law!
I remember in 1981 saying to one of my many women lawprofs that I was interested in going into law teaching. One of the things she told me was that it used to help to be a woman, because law schools needed to increase the number of women on their faculties, but unfortunately I'd already missed that boat. That was too cynical, of course, but my point is that it was something you could say with a straight face in 1981, so let's not pretend O'Connor was a lone pioneer.
Here's the whole Totenberg quote for reference:
[A]s the first woman--you know, young women today may not remember, but I was there and it was an incredibly moving moment when she was named to the court. And I covered the court back then and I was amazed at myself, at how emotionally caught up I was in it. At that point in the profession, there were almost no women judges. There were very few. There were almost no women lawyers. There were very few women in law school. Today, there are women all over the federal and state bench, lots of chief judges and state chief justices. The majority of law students in major American laws schools are women. So she essentially became the symbol, the opening of the doors, as she said to me in an interview last year. It sort of threw open the doors and the profession that was once an almost exclusively male club is now a totally integrated club.This is, in fact, ridiculous.