Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a proud advocate for women’s rights and equality; She became a legal, cultural, and feminine icon to several. On Friday, September 18th, the Supreme Court announced her passing, stating the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas. The court statement said Ginsburg passed surrounded by her family at her home in Washington D.C.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought immensely for women’s rights in the ’70s and served 27 years on the nation’s most leading court, becoming a historic figure. She made the world a better place for women in America; In 1980, she led the fight in courts for gender equality. By law, women were treated differently from men and were restricted in what they were allowed to do, retaining them from jobs and rights. “By the time she donned judicial robes, however, Ginsburg had worked a revolution” (❡15). RBG devoted her movement to equal rights for women and men, leading to her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. One of her biggest pieces of evidence behind her fight for women’s rights was when Ginsburg wrote the court’s 7-1 opinion declaring that the Virginia Military Institute will no longer be an all-male institution. While most women would not meet the dogmatic demands to be in the VMI, they could not exclude them from attempting. “‘Reliance on overbroad generalizations … estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,’ Ginsburg wrote” (❡17). She was an unlikely leader, a rather shy woman, but her hidden intellect and attitude dominated whatever she came into contact with. By the time RBG reached her 80s, she became an icon to women all around the world. She was the star of a documentary, a biopic, an operetta, merchandise galore featuring her “Notorious RBG” appellation, a Time magazine cover, and regular Saturday Night Live sketches. She was prominent in Hollywood, as well as on the court.
Ginsburg always kept a packed schedule of public appearances, at home too. She continued to keep up appearances even after five encounters with cancer: colon cancer (1999), pancreatic cancer 10 years later, lung cancer (2018), and then a repeated time with pancreatic cancer (2019) as well as liver lesions in 2020. During that time, she held up a fight through chemotherapy, radiation, and gut-wrenching pain from shingles.
Growing up, Ruth Bader had always excelled as a student — and as a baton twirler. RBG gives all credit to her mother, who pushed her heavily as a child to succeed; Her mother unfortunately died of cancer the day before Ginsburg graduated high school. Ginsburg continued her journey at Cornell University on a full ride scholarship, where she met her husband, Martin (Marty) Ginsburg. “‘What made Marty so overwhelmingly attractive to me was that he cared that I had a brain,’ she said” (❡24). After her graduation, they married and settled in Oklahoma for his military service. There, it was hard on Mrs. Ginsburg to maintain a steady job despite her exceptionally high scoring on her civil service exam. She managed to get a job as a typist, but became pregnant and eventually lost that job. Two years later, Mr. and Mrs. Ginsburg traveled back to the East Coast where Ruth attended Harvard Law School as an academic star. The couple found themselves busy juggling their busy schedules as well as their toddler when Marty was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Ruth was left to care for a toddler and a sick husband, while also keeping up her duties as a law student with classes and exams. Marty overcame his testicular cancer, graduated, and got a job in New York while Ruth transferred to Columbia where she graduated top of her class. Undeterred by her academic achievements, the doors for law firms were still closed to women. She finally was able to get a clerkship in New York that was held at threat if she was not able to pursue her duties. In 1963, she landed a teaching job at Rutgers Law School whilst hiding her second pregnancy. Luckily, she renewed her contract before her baby was born. While teaching, she began her fight for gender equality.
There were times where Ruth Ginsburg believed she could not do it, but it was Marty that reminded her she could. Later on, Marty Ginsburg died at home, but the next day, Mrs. Ginsburg was found on the bench, reading an important opinion she had authored for the court. “In the years after Marty’s death, she would persevere without him, maintaining a jam-packed schedule when she was not on the bench or working on opinions” (❡73).
RBG never let anything stop her; She never stopped persevering. To the end of her tenure, she remained an extraordinary feminist. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will forever be remembered as one of the most strong and influential women to exist.
This blog post was written by Krista Pham, our intern.
The article that inspired this piece can be found, here.