Known for her lace collars and her love of opera, 5’1” Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a force to be reckoned with when it came to justice and gender equality, earning her the respected but unique cultural moniker “The Notorious RBG.”
(21) Born Joan Ruth Bader in a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, Ruth’s sense of the power of women was formed early by her mother who had given up her own dreams of a college education to go to work to help pay for her brother’s college tuition. Ruth was inspired by this selfless act and considered how her mother’s life could have been different had she had an opportunity to continue her education.
Ruth Bader was one of nine women in a law class of 500 at Harvard Law School. Although she excelled in her studies and graduated at the top of her class, she found finding employment a challenge because of her gender. Job offers were there, but at a fraction of the pay of her male counterparts. (23) After marrying fellow law student Marty Ginsburg in 1954, Ruth transferred to Columbia Law School to complete her degree.
Upon graduation, Ginsburg elected to teach at Rutgers University’s School of Law and then at Columbia University’s School of Law where she became their first tenured female professor.
(24) Fighting for gender equality and women’s rights, before the Supreme Court, Ginsburg argues a total of six cases in the 1970s.
Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton in 1993, where she served until her death in 2020. She was a prolific writer, authoring opinions both for the majority and dissenting positions. (25) In 1996 the Supreme Court heard the case of The United States versus Virginia, charging that the Virginia Military Institute’s policy of not admitting women was discriminatory. Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion for that case, a ruling that resulted in qualified women being admitted to the school.
(26) Ginsburgs tireless work ethic was an inspiration too many. She returned to her duties at the Supreme Court the day after her husband died and continued working while receiving cancer treatment and enduring several rounds of chemotherapy to treat colon and pancreatic cancer.
She died on September 18, 2020 from pancreatic cancer. When she passed away, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first woman, and the first Jewish person, (27) to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol building. Her legacy will be long-lasting.