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Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoked, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” - R.B.G.

Strong. Powerful. Intelligent. Special. No words suffice to describe the persona of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Also known as the Notorious RBG, she was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States for over 25 years. Well-known advocate of female rights and outstanding woman of her field, she managed to leave behind a great legacy.

She had a rather troubled childhood, losing both her sisters while she was still going to school. She remained strong with the support of her mother who, as she wrote in an article in the New York Times, “counselled [her] constantly to ‘be independent’, able to fend for [herself], whatever fortune might have [been] in store for [her]”. She managed to get a full scholarship at Cornell University, where she met her future husband Martin D. Ginsburg and two other professors who instilled in her ideas about writing and urged her to pursue a career in law. She was the first woman to serve on the editorial staff of the Harvard Law Review, while caring for her first child Jane and her husband who was diagnosed with cancer. Her relationship with her husband was special. As she confided in an article she wrote on the New York Times, her husband was “the first reader and critic of articles, speeches and briefs” she wrote, as well as fought by her side during her two battles with cancer. She finished her education in law at Columbia Law School where she also served on the law review. Although she was more than qualified to work at a law firm, the fact that she was a woman, as well as a mother, made her pursuit of employment even more difficult. With the support of one of her professors she managed to be appointed to a clerkship.

In 1963 she started working as a professor in the Rutgers School of Law, where she received a low salary due to her husband’s high-paying job. She became pregnant again and wore oversized clothes since she was afraid of being fired. Yet, she obtained tenure at that very University four years after giving birth to her son James.

“Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me. There will never be another like her. Thank you RBG.” -Hilary Clinton

In 1970 she made her debut in the issue of gender equality. She moderated a student panel discussion on women’s liberation and a year later she published two law reviews on that specific topic. In 1971 she became a counsel of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project and was the first woman to receive tenure at Columbia Law School. Throughout the 70’s she argued six cases in the Supreme Court and won five of them.

In 1980 she was appointed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter to the Court of Appeals for the district of Columbia Circuit in the Nation’s Capital, where she became known for her perfectionism. In 1993, the Senate judiciary Committee suggested her for the position of Supreme Court justice and was later appointed by the full Senate, replacing Byron White who had just retired. During the first years of her service she wrote the majority’s opinion in United States v. Virginia. The case supported that Virginia Military Institute, which had a non-female student policy, was violating the equal protection law.

“Generalizations about ‘the way women are’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”. “[Virginia] serves the state’s sons, it makes no provision whatever for her daughters. That is not equal protection.” - RBG’s comments on the case

Another well-known case in which she publicly read some of her dissents is the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire. She expressed her opposing opinion to the majority’s holding that women could not bring a federal civil suit against her employer for offering her a lower salary than her male equal. In 2012 she expressed her dissents concerning Obamacare, presenting an opposing opinion to that of her conservative colleagues that supported that the Congress did not act within its power under the Commerce Clause in issuing the individual mandate. Even though her health was poor, being a cancer survivor twice, she stated that she would continue to work until she would be able to perform her duties to the fullest extent. A day after her husband’s death she went to work as she had done the day before, stating that her husband would have wanted her to do so.

“Justice Ginsburg personified the best of what it meant to be a judge. She brought a deep intellectual and personal integrity to everything she did. […] She was one of the most impactful lawyers of the twentieth century, whose historic work advocating against gender discrimination and for equal rights for all opened doors for countless people and transformed our society. She was an inspiring and courageous human being. We have lost a giant.” - Harvard University Dean John F. Manning ‘85

She died on Friday 18th of September 2020, due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. Humanity has lost a great woman who, with her courage and intellect, had vividly supported women’s rights. Not only was she an outstanding scholar, but also she was a loving wife and mother. By leading the way for many young girls she made her contribution by increasing the number of women working in her field. Through her example she has taught women around the world not to hesitate to express their opinion, to fight for their rights and pursue their talents, however impossible it might seem. She will always be a hero, an example to follow for many women around the world.

Sources: Bader Ginsburg, Ruth. "Opinion | Ruth Bader Ginsburg’S Advice For Living". Nytimes.Com, 2016, 19 Sept 2020. Biskupic, Joan, and Ariane de Vogue. "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dead At 87". CNN, 2020, 19 Sept 2020.

"Five Things To Know About The 'Notorious RBG'". Aljazeera.Com, 2020, 19 Sept 2020.

Houck, Aaron M., and Brian P. Smentkowski. "Ruth Bader Ginsburg | Biography & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020, 19 Sept 2020.

Manning-Schaffel, Vivian. "Want To Be Heard? Learn To Dissent Like RBG". NBC News, 2018, 19 Sept 2020.



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