The Life & Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On September 18, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. When the unfortunate news broke, news feeds and social media outlets were pouring with posts honoring the feminist icon, mourning her loss. However, this quickly faded. Instead of honoring her memory, people began to speculate who would replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Therefore, this article will be a commemoration of Ginsburg and her life’s work.

Notorious RBG

In 2013, Ginsburg was given the moniker, Notorious RBG, after the late rapper, Notorious B.I.G. In an interview, Ginsburg stated she was often asked if she felt uncomfortable being associated with the rapper. To this, she responded, “Why should I feel uncomfortable? We have a lot in common. We’re both from Brooklyn.”

Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933. She is said to have had a fairly “normal” childhood. She was an honor student and cheerleader in high school. However, on the day before Ginsburg graduated, her mother passed away from cancer. This was a pivotal time in her life.

Her mother was never able to live the life she had dreamed of because, at that time, women were expected to have one of two jobs: wife and/or mother. After her mother’s death, Ginsburg vowed to live a life that her mother would be proud of, a life that she never could’ve imagined for herself. And she did just that.

A Woman of Many Titles

In 1956, Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School. She was 1 of 9 women in a class of 500 men. She was also a mother; she had given birth to her daughter, Jane, with her husband, Marty Ginsburg, just one year prior to her enrollment.

While in her second year of law school, her husband, who was also enrolled at Harvard Law, became diagnosed with testicular cancer. During this time, Ginsburg cared for her young daughter, excelled in an ivy league law school, and cared for her cancer-stricken husband. By the time she graduated, her daughter was 4, her husband had defeated cancer, and she graduated as number one in her class.

Despite Ginsburg’s remarkable achievements, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the late Justice. Upon graduation, she struggled to find work. Women already weren’t widely accepted in the profession of law, but a woman who was also a mother was a double threat. Eventually, Ginsburg found a job as a professor at Rutger’s Law School, which was just the beginning of her legacy.

Advocating for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

At Rutger’s, a few of her students asked her to do research on women in the law. Ginsburg stated that it didn’t take her long at all to do because women in the law was almost obsolete. This is where her passion for gender equality really skyrocketed.

Soon after, Ginsburg took a job at Columbia as a professor, as well as the general counsel for the Women’s Rights Project at the Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This was a turning point in Ginsburg’s career.

In 1972, Ginsburg represented the plaintiff in Weinberger v. Weisenfield, a case in which a male widower was denied Social Security benefits simply because he was a man. Ginsburg won the case, and it was only just the beginning of her work to change gender equality in the justice system. Ginsburg chose cases carefully and intelligently by choosing mostly male plaintiffs in gender discrimination cases.

From Judge Ginsburg…

In 1980, due to her outstanding work as counsel, Ginsburg was nominated by President Jimmy Carter for the U.S., where she served as a judge. Ginsburg held this position until 1993, when she was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court.

…to Justice Ginsburg

Ginsburg served as an associate justice from 1993 to 2020, upon her death, and in that time, Ginsburg did a scrupulous amount of work for gender discrimination. She also benefited many Americans by advocating for minorities.

Her Legacy

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a trailblazer, and she is responsible for many of the rights I, and so many others, hold now, as a woman and as a person of color. No matter where I go or what happens, I have to her thank.

Ginsburg’s life is story of bravery, determination, and integrity. She made tremendous strides in creating gender equality with her honest and quick-witted dissents. She was also simultaneously being a wife and mother, which defied the “gender norms” that America was built upon, and I don’t think there’s a more inspiring story than that of RBG.

“Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid.”

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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