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  • Christianne McCormick

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Life and Legacy

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, A United States Supreme Court justice, passed away on September 18, 2020 due to complications associated with pancreatic cancer. The 87 year old will be remembered as a champion for women’s rights and as a symbol for feminism.

“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent,” Ginsburg once said. Listening to her mother's advice, Ginsburg became the second woman and the first person of Jewish descent to serve on the Supreme Court during her 27 year tenure. She took the Oath of Office on August 10, 1993 after President Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court.

Ginsberg was an unlikely revolutionary icon who challenged many gender stereotypes. She was diminutive, shy, and soft-spoken, but, as a colleague put it, “tough as nails.”

In Ginsburg’s earlier years she earned her undergraduate degree at Cornell University. Shortly after obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she married the love of her life Martin D. Ginsburg. Ginsburg later recalled, “He was the first boy I ever knew who cared that I had a brain.” She became a mother after being accepted into Harvard Law School. At the time, Ginsburg was one of only nine women in her class.

Even though Ginsburg graduated at the top of her class from the most prestigious universities in the U.S., many opportunities were closed off to her because of her gender. She recalled that it was bad enough to be a woman and even worse being a mom. Judges were worried Ginsburg would have to maintain her “familial obligations” instead of appearing in court. Despite the discrimination, Ginsburg obtained a job teaching law at Rutgers University while pregnant with her second child.

As a Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg worked on many landmark cases. In Ledbetter vs. Goodyear (2007), for example, she called upon congress to end employment discrimination. In the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby case for-profit religious businesses could refuse employees the proper coverage of birth control in health care plans despite federal law. Ginsburg argued that such an exemption would “deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs, access to contraceptive coverage.” She added “what is the stopping point?” Ginsburg argued that maybe it would offend an employer based on a religious belief to give women equal pay.

In 2018 Ginsburg expressed her support of the MeToo movement. She stated that, “It’s about time. For so long women were silent, thinking there was nothing you could do about it, but now the law is on the side of women, or men, who encounter harassment and that’s a good thing.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left a lasting legacy on United States policy, and her memory will not be forgotten. We will all keep in our spirits these noble words from Ginsberg and keep fighting for women’s rights in her honor: “A gender line…helps to keep

women not on a pedestal, but a cage.”

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