*Written by Aliya Haddon*
If you are or know a woman that has played sports, has her own bank account, has gone to a public undergraduate college/university, or aspires to work at a job despite also wanting kids, you have Ruth Bader Ginsberg to thank.
She is a trailblazer. She is an icon. She is a woman of the law. She is revolutionary.
Ruth passed away on Friday, Sept. 18, but her legacy will live on forever. She has passed the baton to our generation and it is time to run with it.
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception,” Ginsberg profoundly said.
During her 87 years of life she worked diligently to strike down gender-based discrimination and she did it from the ground up. She also fought for the LGBTQ community, voting rights, undocumented people, and disabled people.
When RBG started her career in law she was one of nine female students in a class of 500 at Harvard Law in 1956 before trying for first in her class at Columbia Law in 1959. Ginsberg had to fight hard for her seat.
When she was interviewed by Harvard, the Dean asked her and her fellow female classmates why they should occupy seats that would otherwise be filled by men.
Yet, she persisted.
When RBG was recommended for a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, he said that he wasn’t ready to hire a woman and requested that a man be recommended instead.
Yet, she persisted.
During her second year of law school she worked at a renowned New York law firm where she excelled, but when she graduated she did not receive a job offer from them or the other twelve firms at which she interviewed.
Yet, she persisted.
Ginsberg became a clerk for a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. After that, she went on to become the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School.
As a law professor, she found out that her male colleagues had a notably higher salary. RBG and other female professors filed an Equal Pay Act complaint and won.
Ginsberg emphasised throughout her career how gender equality benefits both men and women.
Her first attack against gender discrimination was in opposition to a law that disfavored men.
With the success of amending a section of the IRS code, she gave men the same caregiving and Social Security rights as women. This set a precedent for all future cases that discriminated on the basis of sex.
Ginsberg argued six sex discrimination cases before the Supreme Court and won five after starting the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project in 1972. One of the groundbreaking cases that she argued was Reed v. Reed which ruled that discrimination on the basis of sex is prohibited under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
In 1980 RBG served in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, nominated by President Jimmy Carter, for 13 years.
After that, she was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, making her the second woman to hold this position where she quickly made a name for herself with her dedication and work ethic.
Ginsberg said, “People ask me sometimes… ‘When will there be enough women on the court?’ And my answer is: ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”
While Ginsberg sat on the Supreme Court she was a major part of many important cases.
She wrote the majority opinion for United States v. Virginia which ruled that public colleges/universities must allow admission to men and women. She was extremely vocal during the case, Obergefell v. Hodges which granted the right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Ginsberg was also well known for dissenting and standing strong on those decisions.
She would wear a collar correlating to each decision she made on the court, and her most famous was her dissent collar.
In the Supreme Court case, Shelby County v. Holder the court ruled to remove a policy, also known as a “preclearance,” from the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required certain states that had bad records of suppressing minority votes to get approval from Washington, D.C. before making changes to their voting requirements.
In her dissent she said, “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.”
Another well known dissent of RBG’s was in the case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, where the court ruled that although female employee, Ledbetter was not being paid equally to her male colleagues, she did not file a complaint soon enough for her stance to be significant.
Ginsberg was extremely vocal about her stance on this issue, saying that Letterberg was blinded to the fact that she was being discriminated against, so she couldn’t have reported it any sooner. Ginsberg even translated her dissent into less technical terms and shared it with the public to draw attention to the gender wage gap.
Ginsberg is renowned for her title as “The Notorious RBG,” which is a tribute to her accomplishments and persistence as a fighter for social justice.
Ginsberg was an inspiring figure and incredible leader who has surely left her mark. She led by example and brought others with her.
She said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a monumental part of shaping our country into what it is today. We can thank her by using our imagination to see a better world and work toward that justice.
Thank you, Justice; Notorious RBG.
Cover image credit: Getty / Arsh Raziuddin / The Atlantic, theatlantic.com