October 27, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) was a women’s rights icon

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described herself in 2007 as having “three strikes against her” when entering the legal field. That never stopped Ginsburg.

At 87 years old, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Sept. 18. She was surrounded by her family in her Washington D.C. home. Ginsburg died of complications with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Ginsburg was first in her class at Columbia University’s law school. Before that,she attended Harvard’s law school and was one of nine women in her class of 500. Before Harvard, Ginsburg was demoted at the Social Security office she worked at for becoming pregnant with her first child, a daughter named Jane.

She described herself in 2007 to CBS as having “three strikes against her” when entering the legal field: she was Jewish, she was a mother and she was a woman.

That never stopped Ginsburg.

Throughout her law career, she championed women’s rights. She fought against gender discrimination, taking six cases to the Supreme Court and winning five. She co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union in 1972. She stayed on the project as a general counsel until her appointment to the Federal Bench in 1980.

The late Antonin Scalia – Ginsburg’s closest friend on the Supreme Court – considered her as a great advocate for women’s rights.

“She became the leading —and very successful— litigator on behalf of women’s rights—the Thurgood Marshall of that cause, so to speak,” Scalia wrote when Ginsburg made the TIME 100 list in 2015.

In 1993, Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. During her confirmation hearings, Ginsburg took  “the unprecedented step of strongly endorsing abortion rights” according to a TIME report on Aug. 2, 1993.

“It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decision maker, that her choice be controlling,” Ginsburg told Senators during her four days of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee. “If you impose restraints that impede her choice, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex.”

As the second female Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg helped decide on cases involving abortion rights, gender discrimination, capital punishment and same-sex marriage. 

Ginsburg had two children, Jane and James. Her husband, Martin, died from complications of cancer in 2010. Ginsburg had four previous battles with cancer but never missed a day of court until 2019 after surgery to remove cancerous nodules in her lungs.

She had earned the nickname ‘the notorious RBG’ after a dissent in “Shelby County v. Holder” in 2013.  The case dealt with voting rights and if it was constitutional for states to gain preclearance before implementing any changes in their voting policies. 

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” she wrote.

After that iconic burn in 2013, Ginsburg claimed her title and became a pop culture icon. In 2016, Ginsburg’s voice grew louder as she spoke out against now-President Donald Trump. She called him a “faker” and said she could not imagine his presidency. She apologized after backlash four days later. 

In the same year, Ginsburg called Colin Kaepernick’s infamous protest “really dumb” and “disrespectful.” She apologized two days later, saying she was “inappropriately dismissive and harsh.” 

For many, the death of Ginsburg stung as much as her dissent in the 2013 case. With a month and a half left until the election, the GOP has vowed to fill her seat before the end of the year despite a similar occurrence in 2016 with Antonin Scalia. Ginsburg’s dying wish was for her seat to be filled after the election. 

Ginsburg’s powerful dissents – her voice growing louder throughout her time on the Supreme Court – and trailblazing career will be remembered throughout America. Even having three strikes against her, Ginsburg proved a woman can do anything a man can, with a lace collar to top it off.

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked,” Ginsburg once famously said. “But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

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