On September 18, 2020, the first Jewish woman and second woman to serve on the Supreme Court passed away.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sometimes affectionately referred to as RBG, served on the Supreme Court for twent-seven years, fighting against gender discrimination and unifying a liberal block of the court.
Chief Justice John Roberts said, “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
Justice Ginsberg was born in Brooklyn, New York to parents Celia and Nathan Bader. “Ginsburg’s Brooklyn upbringing (and the influence of her mother Celia) taught her not to limit her view of what women could accomplish,” said Smithsonian Magazine.
While attending Cornell, Ruth Bader Ginsberg met future husband Martin D. Ginsberg. They married in 1954, and after the birth of their first child, Jane Carol, Ruth Bader Ginsberg enrolled in Harvard Law School and later transferred to Columbia Law School.
While in law school, Ginsberg faced discriminated as one of the few women in her class. Through her persistence to be the best and her wit, Ginsberg graduated at the top of her class.
In a tribute article to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they state, “This major accomplishment at two top schools was unprecedented by any student, male or female.”
As a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg served as a major female role model for young women. Her accomplishments reflect her passion for women’s rights; she was a pioneer for gender equality.
Throughout her life, she fought for laws that upheld equality, such as the ruling that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
Considered one of RBG’s biggest contributions, her ruling against gender-bias prohibits businesses from firing or not consider a woman for a job because they are pregnant or have plans to be pregnant.
Ginsberg also co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project with the American Civil Liberties Union. The project brought many cases to the Supreme Court, including Reed v. Reed, a case that eliminated the bias of sex in the decision of who is designated an administrator of an estate.
The Supreme Court Historical Society states, “When the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Reed v. Reed in November of 1971, the decision made headlines across the country. For the first time since the Fourteenth Amendment had gone into effect in 1868, the Court had struck down a state law on the ground that it discriminated against women in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”
Ginsburg took on cases like this to nullify institutionalized sex discrimination against women. She won five out of the six cases she worked on.
Not only was she an advocate for women’s rights, but she was also an advocate for the protection of disabled people’s rights. And in another historic case Olmstead v. L.C., two women under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Elaine and Curtis Wilson, were forced against their will to be contained in psychiatric institutions.
Ginsburg argued that the ruling was biased and unfair. She said, “ [the case] directly connected discrimination against people with disabilities to racial and gender bias, and pointed out that anti-discrimination laws have been broadly interpreted to address many forms of segregation and harm, even if they were not specifically mentioned in the original legislation.”
Today, many remember the legacy that RBG has left behind.
Katharine Bales ’22 comments, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for human rights on the U.S. supreme Court until the day she died. No matter what her personal circumstances were, she always aimed to ensure gender and LGBTQ+ equality even while others held the opposite views.”
Ginsberg’s attributions are vast, and their effects are reaped by Americans across the country. As Americans mourn her death, we can remember her fierce force of life. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability” and “fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”