Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020

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Woman Category: Activism & Feminism and LawWoman Tags: Justice, Lawyer, The Pioneering Women of the Capitol Hill Neighborhood, and WDC Metro Area Women

  • HerStory

    An activist for women’s rights and minority groups, a lawyer, and a US Supreme Court justice, the second woman in this position.

    Born as Joan Ruth Bader to a family of Jewish descent in Brooklyn, NYC. Her mother, Celia, wanted her to get a good education and encouraged her to be independent. Sadly, she passed away a day before Ginsburg’s graduation. She earned her bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell University and finished first in her class. There, she met Martin Ginsburg, and they got married a month after her graduation. After Martin was drafted into the US Army, they moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where she worked for the Social Security Administration office. Ginsburg was demoted after becoming pregnant.
    At 23, Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School and was one of only 9 women in a class of 500 men. The Dean of Harvard Law chided the female students for taking the place of male students. During that time, her husband was diagnosed with cancer, so in addition to her own classes and taking care of their two years old daughter, Ginsburg also attended her husband’s classes, taking notes and typing his papers. After her husband found a job in NYC, she transferred to Columbia Law School and graduated first in her class. Despite her academic record, she struggled to find a job due to her gender, and eventually was hired as a law clerk for Judge Edmund L. Palmieri. Afterward, she worked as a research associate and as an associate director of the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure.
    In 1963, Ginsburg became a professor at Rutgers Law School, becoming one of less than 20 female law professors in the US. While working there, her salary was lower than male colleagues because she was married, and her husband had a good income. At 37 years old, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter – a law journal focusing on women’s rights. In 1972, she began teaching at Columbia, becoming the first female tenured professor in Colombia’s Law School. With the rise of the second wave of feminism during the ’70s, she decided to fight for women’s rights by changing the American discriminating laws. She co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. She took cases that will bring her to argue in the Supreme Court. The hard part at the beginning was to convince the court that such discrimination exists. With every case, she brought she made a change, winning 5 out of 6 gender discrimination cases she argued before the Supreme Court.
    In 1980, RBG had a confirmed seat at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a position she served for 13 years. In 1993, she was appointed as the 107th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, the second US female justice and the first Jewish female justice in this position. As a supreme judge, Ginsburg is known for her strong voice for gender equality, worker’s rights, and separation of church and state.
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer complications on September 18th, 2020, when she was 87 years old.

    “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you”

    “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • Her mother nicknamed her “Kiki” because she was a kicky baby.
    • She learned Swedish to co-write a book on civil procedure in Sweden.
    • While receiving treatment for colon cancer, which included surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, she didn’t miss a day on the court.
    • She and her husband Martin were married for 56 years until he passed away. They have 2 children and 4 grandchildren.
    • She is recognized for the symbolic jabots she wears with her judicial robes, a trend followed by other female justices.
    • A documentary film about her life and career, named RBG, was released in May 2018, celebrating her 24 years on the Supreme Court. The film management team were females.
    • She loves the opera, she is a terrible cooker, a great thinker, and not a small-talk person.
    • During her hearing before becoming an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, she spoke in length about the importance of legalizing abortions.
    • When she was asked what the right number should be for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, she answered “9.”
    • If she will be in the minority decision and she thinks injustice was done, she would file a dissent.
    • In recent years she became a rock-star with fans all across the US.
    • In the movie “On the Basis of Sex” from 2018, inspired by her life story, Felicity Jones stars as the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • More About Her Legacy

    * Thurgood Marshall Award for contributing to gender equality and civil rights
    * Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame
    * Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture because of her work "pioneering gender equality and strengthening the rule of law"

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  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Fight to End Gender Discrimination

    In honor of the 25th annual Women of the Year Awards, Glamour is taking a look back at some of the most memorable honorees. Watch as 2012 Lifetime Achievement Winner Ruth Bader Ginsburg describes the struggles she faced in her early career, the legal battle for equal rights for women, and her Supreme Court legacy.

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    Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Fight to End Gender Discrimination

    Starring: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

  • Photo Credit - Shutterstock.

  • Citations and Additional References:
    An article on the TIME website.
    Oyez website.
    Wikipedia page.