Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Torchbearer Of Gender Equality
Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves left behind a rich legacy. She was 87 years old. Also known by her initials RBG, she served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in 2020.
To her credit, she was the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor. Following O’Connor’s retirement in 2006 and until Sonia Sotomayor joined the Court in 2009, she was the only female justice on the Supreme Court.
Her early life
Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 15, 1933. Her older sister died when she was a baby, and her mother died shortly before Ginsburg graduated from high school. She studied for her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University and became a wife to Martin D. Ginsburg and a mother before starting law school at Harvard. At Harvard, she was one of the few women in her class. She then transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated tied for first position in her class. After completing law school, Ginsburg entered academia. As a professor, she taught civil procedure at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School.
What is she known for
Ginsburg spent a large part of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, winning multiple arguments before the Supreme Court. She also received attention in American popular culture for her fiery liberal dissents and refusal to step down, leading to her being dubbed “The Notorious R.B.G.”, a play on the name of rapper The Notorious B.I.G.
What she will be remembered for
In the year 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 1973, she became the Project’s general counsel. The Women’s Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in more than three hundred gender discrimination cases by 1974. She argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, as the director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, winning five. Her strategy to win was bang on, rather than asking the court to end all gender discrimination at once, Ginsburg charted a strategic course, taking aim at specific discriminatory statutes and building on each successive victory.
One of her major strategies was that she chose plaintiffs carefully; she deliberately picked male plaintiffs to demonstrate that gender discrimination was harmful to both men and women.
The laws Ginsburg targeted included those that on the surface appeared beneficial to women, but in fact, reinforced the notion that women needed to be dependent on men. Her strategic advocacy extended to word choice, favouring the use of “gender” instead of “sex” after her secretary suggested the word “sex” would serve as a distraction to judges. She gained a reputation for being a skilled oral advocate, and her tireless work led directly to the end of gender discrimination in many areas of the law.
Here are some books that will tell you more about her
My Own Words, by Ginsburg, is a collection of Ginsburg’s writings and speeches that go as far back as the eighth grade, focusing on her efforts as a women’s rights crusader. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik is a delightful take on Ginsburg explores the Supreme Court justice’s elevation to pop culture icon and queen of the internet. Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law by Jeffrey Rosen is a series of conversations where Ginsburg shares her thoughts on the #MeToo movement, the future of the Supreme Court. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy is a picture book, young readers can follow her from childhood to the Supreme Court. They will see her as a lawyer facing workplace discrimination as a woman, a mother and a Jew. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart, this comprehensive biography is 15 years’ worth of interviews and research in the making, and explores the experiences that shaped Ginsburg’s enduring passion for justice and gender equality.
RIP Ruth Bader Ginsburg you will be remembered for being a champion for women whose tireless determination reshaped the national life of Americans and the world.
Smita Singh is a freelance writer. The views expressed are the author’s own.