Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, age 87, passed away on September 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. She was born March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn, NY, to Celia (née Amster) and Nathan Bader, who lived in the Flatbush neighborhood. Her father was a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine, and her mother was born of parents in New York who immigrated from Krakow, Poland. Ruth attended James Madison High School, and her mother wanted her to further her education. However, her mother died before her high school graduation.
Ruth attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in government. While at Cornell, she met Martin D. Ginsburg at age 17. She and Martin moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he was stationed as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps officer in the United States Army Reserve. At age 21, she worked for the Social Security Administration office in Oklahoma, where she was demoted after becoming pregnant with her first child. She gave birth to a daughter in 1955.
In the fall of 1956, Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of only 9 women in a class of about 500 men. The dean of Harvard Law reportedly invited all the female law students to dinner at his family home and asked the female law students, including Ginsburg, “Why are you at Harvard Law School, taking the place of a man?” When her husband took a job in New York City, that same dean denied Ginsburg’s request to complete her third year towards a Harvard law degree at Columbia Law School, so Ginsburg transferred to Columbia and became the first woman to be on two major law reviews: the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review. In 1959, she earned her law degree at Columbia and tied for first in her class.
She had difficulties finding a job until a favorite Columbia professor explicitly refused to recommend any other graduates before U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri hired Ginsburg as a clerk. Ginsburg clerked under Judge Palmieri for two years. She then was hired at several law firms but at a much lower salary than the men were making.
Ginsburg also directed the influential Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s. In this position, she led the fight against gender discrimination and successfully argued six landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ginsburg took a broad look at gender discrimination, fighting not just for the women left behind, but for the men who were discriminated against as well. Ginsburg experienced her share of gender discrimination, even going so far as to hide her pregnancy from her Rutgers colleagues. Ginsburg accepted Jimmy Carter’s appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. She served on the court for thirteen years until 1993, when Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court of the United States. Clinton was reportedly looking to increase the court’s diversity, which Ginsburg did as the first Jewish justice since the 1969 resignation of Justice Abe Fortas. She was the second female and the first Jewish female justice of the Supreme Court.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for gender equality in the United States. The late Supreme Court Justice, achieved much of her progress for equality as a lawyer before serving on the highest bench in the country. Ginsburg’s early work provided constitutional protection from gender discrimination. Without these cases, many of these discriminatory laws could possibly still be in effect today. Ginsburg’s fight for gender equality didn’t just expand to women’s rights, though. She used carefully measured tactics that pointed out discrimination of both women and men, with many of her arguments showcasing how discrimination against either parties—and sometimes, both—disadvantaged entire families, not just individuals. Ginsburg’s strategy made her arguments more accessible and relatable during a time in U.S. history when equal rights for both genders was seen as a progressive, out-of-the-box idea.
Ginsburg died from complications of pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020, at age 87. Ginsburg died on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. After the announcement of her death, thousands of people gathered in front of the Supreme Court building to lay flowers, light candles, and leave messages.