Following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice and liberal feminist icon, there has been an outpouring of tributes to her legacy. The Record has received two such obituaries, which we are pleased to present below:
Notorious RBG – Maddie McCall
I remember sitting in the second row of my government class about two years ago when I first heard the name “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” – but it was in passing that she “fought for equality”, which was the extent of the discussion. But I wanted to know more, so I went home and watched RBG’s documentary, and I was in awe. She became my idol. I then watched “On the Basis of Sex,” where Felicity Jones plays Ruth, giving insight to her struggles and accomplishments. RBG changed the law in more ways than anyone ever has and paved the way for all woman as a champion of race and gender equality, a civil rights hero and a feminist icon.
Ruth completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell and then continued her education at Harvard Law School with her husband, Martin Ginsburg. When Ruth attended Harvard in 1956, her class had 552 men and only nine women. When she attended the Harvard Dean’s dinner party, held for the women of the class, they were all asked why they deserved a spot at Harvard that could have gone to a man. Not only did Ruth have to constantly justify her intelligence as a woman, but while she was at Harvard, her husband was diagnosed with and treated for testicular cancer, and without question, Ruth took care of him and their daughter in addition to attending all of Martins classes and typing his papers along with her own. When Martin was offered a job at a tax law firm in New York, Ruth transferred to Columbia and was denied a Harvard degree despite having gotten the majority of her legal degree there. But even after graduating from Columbia, Ruth went to job interview after job interview only to be turned away because she was a woman.
One firm told her her male coworker’s wives would be jealous.
But despite the adversity, Ruth never gave up; instead, she thrived. She became a professor at Rutgers University and then Colombia Law School, teaching civil procedure and gender inequality under the law. She was the first women professor at Columbia to gain tenure. Additionally, she advocated as a volunteer attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and a member of its board of directors in the 70s. Under Jimmy Carter, she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993, the second woman after Sandra Day O’Connor to serve as a Supreme Court Justice. RBG is the face of gender equality legislation; she argued six significant cases before the Supreme Court and won five.
Let us take a look at her most historical moments (if I wrote them all, this article might turn into a book)…
Reed V. Reed was a case that fought against the law in Idaho that required a man to be selected over a woman to serve as the administrator of an estate when both individuals were equally qualified. Sally Reed’s son died, and her ex-husband, who was an abuser and abandoned the family, was granted administrator rights. This case was the first time the Supreme Court declared a law that discriminated on the basis of sex to be unconstitutional. Idaho eliminated the mandatory preference for males, effective July 1st, 1972, and the brief was written and submitted by none other than Ruth.
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers cannot sue employers over unequal pay caused by gender discrimination. At this time, RBG was on the bench and read her dissent, a rare occurrence in court. She stated, “In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent too, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.” Obama went on to sign into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act two years later, which requires employers to redouble their efforts to ensure that they pay practices are non-discriminatory and provide records to prove pay equality.
Not only has RBG argued numerous cases, but she was a woman of integrity and resilience. On the 40th anniversary of Roe V Wade, Ginsburg spoke with Geoffrey Stone, and she emphasized that abortion is “a question of a woman’s choice” and that Roe V Wade didn’t entirely consider that. She argued the case was more “…about a doctor’s freedom to practice his profession as he thinks best.” And she expressed that although there are clear efforts in practice to give women the right to chose, there is still very far to go.
In a 2012 interview, Ginsburg was asked, “when will there be enough women on the Supreme Court,” She responded when female judges fill all nine seats. People were shocked by her statement, but she replied, “there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” And she is more than right; our society has been always giving men always the upper hand, and as women we have much more to prove; RBG spent her career fighting to prove that our culture needs to change and eliminate the absurd argument that women are inferior to men. RBG will forever be remembered as the fearless, intelligent hero that she was.
I would love to be able to put in my own words what legacy RBG leaves behind, but I believe Mindy Kaling said it best… “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the kind of scholar and patriot you get excited explaining to your kids. The kind of person who you say “who knows, one day you could be HER.” I hope you rest well, RBG, you must have been tired from changing the world.”
Remembering RBG – Georgia Dougherty
Two years ago, for Christmas, my mom bought me Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s biography/memoir, My Own Words. To be completely honest, I have not yet finished it. It is excellently written and jam-packed with anecdotes, speeches, and reflections on Ginsburg’s early life. My only defense is that I am a slow nonfiction reader. But there is nothing like the death of a hero and an icon that gives you the inspiration to go back and finish what you started, because if I know anything, it’s that Ginsburg had a life worth reading about.
What I learned from the book has become somewhat fuzzy in the back of my head, but certain things stick out, such as the sheer amount of dedication and work that Ginsburg devoted her life to. There are writings and speeches included from eighth grade! Thirteen years old and she was already preparing to take on the world! I also remember how her Jewish heritage was a huge part of her life, something she let influence her every day. And finally, I recall how this book and Ginsburg’s life had the crazy ability to make me feel both lazy and inspired at the same time. She was always on the move – working her way to the top of her class, absolutely smashing it at law school and beyond – that I couldn’t help but feel as though I wasn’t doing enough myself. But then of course, the exhilaration kicks in. Reading about Ginsburg breaking barriers, redefining standards, and dismissing gender discrimination truly would give me goosebumps, and proves why she is a hero to almost everyone.
I am deeply saddened about Ginsburg’s death. She was an amazing woman, intellectual, and a Supreme Court Justice. She was and remains an icon to me and many others. I am sure I speak for many people when I say that Ginsburg’s death also leaves me anxious. She was on the frontline of defending the rights of women in the 60s and 70s. She faced many barriers so that women everywhere could benefit. I am concerned over who will fight for racial and gender equality on a national level now, especially in such a contentious time, when the leader of the US tries to build the very barriers Ginsburg fought against.
Regardless of what the future holds, Ginsburg’s life deserves to be celebrated now. Here’s a quick (but not complete) list of the incredible things she did with her amazing life.
- In 1956, Ginsburg became one of nine women accepted into Harvard Law School in a class of over 500; and after that, graduated first in her class from Columbia Law School.
- She was the first person on both the Harvard and Columbia law reviews – student-run journals of legal scholarship.
- After having a hard time finding a job after law school (despite her top marks), she became the second female law professor at Rutgers, and fought for equal pay in 1963.
- In 1972, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at ACLU and was soon the ACLU’s general counsel. She launched a series of gender-discrimination cases, six of which brought her before the supreme court, and five of which she won.
- Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Clinton as the second female justice ever, after Sandra Day O’Connor, nominated by President Reagan in 1981. She became the first Jewish justice since 1969, and the first female Jewish Supreme Court Justice ever.