Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life filled with achievements


Supreme Court of the United States, First Street Northeast, Washington, DC, USA Photo by Gayatri Malhotra.

Maddie Barbar, News Editor

The death of the well-respected Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created an empty seat in the United States Supreme Court. When she passed, Ginsburg left the world with a long list of achievements that furthered the rights of women and minorities in America. Ginsburg spent her life’s work advocating for gender equality in the legal world. She was born on March 15th, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. She was an only child, and she lost her mother to cancer days before she graduated high school. After high school, Ginsburg attended Cornell University to study government. While at Cornell, she was sent on a “blind date” where she met Martin Ginsburg. Bader Ginsburg and her husband would be married for 56 years and have two children together.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Photographer: Steve Petteway

After Cornell, the couple married and had a daughter, Jane. Ginsburg was in his second year of Law school at Harvard University, and he urged his wife to join him. Bader Ginsburg began law school with the responsibility of taking care of a 14 month old child. In her second year, she made the Harvard Law Review; a prestigious review that only accepted the top 25 students of a class of over 500 students. Ruth Ginsburg was the first woman to ever be on the Harvard Law Review, and she was one of the nine women in her class. Her husband was diagnosed with a rare cancer in his final year of school. Bader Ginsburg took care of her sick husband, their child, and both her and her husband’s law school assignments. After Ginsburg graduated, he got a job at a law firm in New York City. Bader Ginsburg decided to transfer to Columbia University, where she was also the first woman on the law review. When Bader Ginsburg finished law school, no law firm in New York would hire her because she was a woman. So, she began to teach gender law at Rutgers University.
After teaching at Rutgers, Ruth Bader Ginsburg received a job in 1972 from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for their Women’s Rights project. While a part of the ACLU, she took part in thirty-four Supreme Court cases. She argued six cases in front of the Supreme Court, and she won five of them. These cases are; Frontiero v Richardson, Duran v Missouri, Weinberg v Weisenfeld, Califano v Goldfarb, and Edwards v Healy. Each case fought for gender equality rights in different aspects of everyday life. Bader Ginsburg’s triumphs in the ACLU laid the groundwork for her historical rulings as a Supreme Court Justice.
In 1980, Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit a landmark in her legal career. She was elected for the United States D.C. Court of Appeals Circuit by President Jimmy Carter. She served on the Court of Appeals until 1993 when she was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. After Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, she continued her fight for gender equality. She delivered the majority opinion on the monumental case of United States v Virginia (VMI). This case would grant women the right to go to the Virginia Military Institute, an all-male institution. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, she would remain a moderate democrat and attempt to find common ground with her colleagues. Some of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ruling conflict with the Catholic teaching, particularly on abortion. However, many Catholics still show reverence and respect towards her legacy.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s maintained a respectful and professional manner towards her colleagues throughout her career in the legal world. She had a close friendship with conservative and Catholic Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia despite their conflicting political opinions.
After the election of conservative President George W. Bush, Ruth Bader Ginsburg began to dissent on more cases than her conservative colleagues. In the case, Ledbetter v Goodyear, she had the dissenting opinion. The case was about gender pay discrimination. Bader Ginsburg dissented the majority opinion that the case was presented in an “untimely” matter and therefore could not be proven. A couple of years later, during Barack Obama’s presidency, the first act he would sign would be in favor of Bader Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion that granted women equal pay to men under the law. In the Sanford Unified School District v Redding, Bader Ginsburg presented the majority opinion that stated the school district had violated Redding’s rights. In the case, Redding, a thirteen year old girl’s backpack and undergarments were searched by her school.

Photo by Gayatri Malhotra

In the case of Shelby County v Holder, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had the dissenting opinion. This case was meant to amend the voting rights act to address racial discimination in voting. Her colleagues ruled against it, and she addressed her dissenting opinion. Bader Ginsburg began her statement with “I dissent” rather than the normal, “I respectfully dissent” this slight change in words gained her much popularity with younger Americans. She was given the nickname of, “Notorious RBG” a spin-off of the rapper Notorious B.I.G. ‘s name. In the case of Burrell v Hobby Lobby, Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion that accused Hobby Lobby stores of restricting religious freedom and healthcare violations.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg continued her work in the Supreme Court full steam. She survived five rounds of cancer, her battle beginning in the 1990’s. In 2010 she lost her husband, Martin Ginsburg, due to cancer. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a passion and intellect that drove her to be one of the United’s States leading human rights activists. Her image will live on as a substantial human rights activist and Supreme Court Justice in American history.