BROOKLYN, NY– In front of every main courthouse in America, flowers and signs beautifully decorate the steps and candles are lit for that special person… we all know who she is. The second female justice of the U.S supreme court, the first-ever female tenured professor at Columbia, the game-changing feminist icon, role model, the rockstar for some. There are a ton of books about her and a documentary: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or as some like to call her, The Notorious RBG. She died a peaceful death at age 87 surrounded by her family at her home in Washington, DC.
Ruth Joan Bader, the second daughter of Nathan and Cecelia Bader, was born on March 15, 1933 and grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Ginsburg’s family was Jewish. During that time many discriminated against Jewish people. “I am alert to discrimination,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the senate in her 1993 confirmation hearing. “I grew up during World War II in a Jewish family. I have memories as a child, even before the war, of being in a car with my parents and passing a place in [Pennsylvania], a resort with a sign out in front that read: ‘No dogs or Jews allowed.’ Signs of that kind existed in this country during my childhood. One couldn’t help but be sensitive to discrimination living as a Jew in America at the time of World War II.” And yet the descrimination she faced because of being Jewish didn’t hold her down; it just encouraged her to keep on fighting for her rights.
According to history.com, Ruth looked up to her mother, who “taught her the value of independence and a good education.” Her mother Cecilia did not attend college. Instead, she worked at a garment factory to help pay for her brother’s college tuition, an act of selflessness that forever impressed RBG. Sadly, her mother struggled with cancer and passed away a day before Ruth graduated from high school.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg did attend college, Cornell University, earning a bachelor’s degree in law, while also meeting her future husband. She then attended Harvard University, and finally transferred to Columbia where she graduated joint first in her class. Then, she married Martin D. Ginsburg and had her kids Jane and James. An article from history.com states, “At Harvard, Ginsburg learned to balance life as a mother and her new role as a law student.” This wasn’t easy for her but luckily she got help from her husband part time. “She also encountered a very male-dominated, hostile environment, with only eight females in her class of 500…. The school’s dean asked those women, at a dinner party, how they justified taking a place that would have gone to a man.” This didn’t stop her though. Nothing stopped Ruth.
Then, Martin got testicular cancer in 1956, and required intensive treatment and rehabilitation. Ginsburg attended to her young daughter and sick husband, taking notes for him in classes while she continued her own studies. “My mother said, ‘Always be prepared to be self-standing, to fend for yourself.’ Her advice came at a time when most wives were considered properly dependent on their husbands,” Ruth said during an interview for The Atlantic with Jeffrey Rosen, an american academic and commentator on legal affairs.
It wasn’t only her mother that inspired her; her father did too.
RBG’s daughter-in-law, Patrice Michaels, wrote a song about RBG called The Notorious RBG in Song. The third song, “Advice From Morris,” is from the perspective of RBG’s dad talking to Ruth: “If you really want to go to law school, you will stop feeling sorry for yourself, and you will find a way to do it. Your attitude should be ‘I will somehow surmount this. I will find a way to do what I want to do.’” He said this when Ruth was doing school work and taking care of her children. Ruth kept pushing and found a nanny for her children.
When Martin got a little bit better Ruth searched for a job. Even though she was top of her class, it was still very hard to find a job because she was Jewish and a woman. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She served there until she was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, filling the seat vacated by Justice Byron White. She was the second woman to join the supreme court after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor! Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s most famous catchphrase is and was, “I dissent,” which also became a fashion statement. She would show her displeasure while reading a dissent on the bench by wearing a black necklace with crystals. For example, the day after Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the election, Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the bench while wearing that necklace.
This year, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cannot share her input in the election, but before she died, she did give her input on her replacement. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ruth said a few days before her death to her granddaughter Clara Spera. Recently, a conservative justice has been chosen to be the new replacement on the Supreme Court, nominated by Donald Trump: Amy Coney Barrett. Some people say Ruth Bader Ginsburg should have stepped down when Obama was president so another liberal judge could take the role.
Regardless of what may happen in the future, we will always honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s memory and celebrate everything she’s done for the country. Who knows what Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s future legacy will be? She had many accomplishments on the court, for example, fighting for women’s rights in school in the United States v. Virginia, 1996 case, and the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case fighting for same sex marrage.
Let’s celebrate Ruth, the role model, 80-year-old who worked out, the Supreme Court Justice, the woman who fought against sexism, and who got back up when people tried to take her down. Ruth Bader Ginsburg.