Ruth Bader Ginsburg — the Notorious RBG — a woman who has altered the course of America indefinitely. A woman who encouraged dissent and was not afraid. A woman of non-negotiable intelligence, confidence in the face of adversity and incomparable character. A Supreme Court Justice, a mother, grandmother and a champion of equality.
Justice. A word that can be attributed to RBG not only in her occupational title but in her constant battle to uproot systems of oppression and secure equality for every American.
In her career, she didn’t only reach glass ceilings, she smashed them, paving the way for the next generation of American women to grow up in a world where they could not only choose their university or profession but be readily hired after graduation. Where they could own a credit card in their own name, serve on a jury, fight harassment in the workplace, sustain pregnancies without being fired and have bodily autonomy in family planning.
Justice Ginsburg knew all too well the struggles of institutional sexism in the 1950s. Despite graduating from Cornell University with the highest honors, attending both Harvard and Columbia Law schools, being on the Law Review board at both universities, and graduating top of the class, she still struggled to find employment opportunities because of her gender.
As a wife and mother, she was simultaneously raising her daughter Jane Ginsburg, and assisting her husband Martin Ginsburg as he battled cancer. She eventually clerked under Judge Palmieri, joined the Columbia Project on International Civil Procedure, accepted a job as a professor at Rutgers University Law School in 1963, then Columbia in 1972, becoming the first female professor at Columbia to earn tenure.
Justice Ginsburg then directed the influential Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, successfully arguing six landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: Duren v. Missouri (1978), Califano v. Goldfarb (1976), Edwards v. Healy (1974), Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld (1974), Kahn v. Shevin (1973), Frontiero v. Richardson (1972).
Her entire career’s work was focused on eliminating gender discrimination in legislation and regulations, and she was finally appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Despite undergoing chemotherapy, she never missed a day of oral arguments until 2018.
She brought about these changes with an even temper, famously being quoted, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
She knew the importance of a strategic approach, and these words are something we could all pay more attention to in this election year.
I won’t go into the politics of her replacement, nor the sorrow of her passing. But I will say, thank you, Justice Ginsburg, for your courage of conviction, for your inspirational fight against gender discrimination, and for staying strong to the end. Rest in power, Notorious RBG.