Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- Learn how she touched all of our lives


Today instead of doing a Black Lives Matter post I thought I would share a bit about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her death Friday night really affected me even though I have never met the woman. Her death brings about all sorts of unknowns for our country and how we go forward will make a difference. However worrying about things I cannot control like how the politicians will respond to her death so close to the election will not help me and I want to show my respect to this amazing American hero. Do you know much about Ruth Bader Ginsburg? 

Joan Ruth Bader was born on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. She was the second daughter of Nathan and Celia Bader. She grew up in a working class family that was on a low income. Celia did not attend college but worked in a garment factory to send her brother to college. Celia taught Ruth that an education was important. Ruth worked diligently at school. She attended James Madison High School. Her mother died of cancer the day before Ruth graduated from high school. At a young age her aunt took her to the opera. Ruth fell in love with it. 

Although her father believed a woman's place was at home, Ruth attended Cornell University. She earned a bachelor's degree in government graduating first in her class in 1954. On June 23, 1954 she also married a law student named Martin D. Ginsburg. Their first child, Jane, was born in 1955, shortly after Martin was drafted into the military in 1954. He served for two years. After he was discharged the couple moved to Harvard University where Ruth enrolled in law school. There were only eight other woman out of the more than 500 law students at Harvard. Ruth had to balance being a young mother, wife and student. The dean of the law school chided the women for taking the places of male students. Ruth worked diligently and excelled academically. She even became the first female member of the Harvard Law Review

In 1956 Martin suffered from testicular cancer. Ruth attended to their daughter and Martin while going to classes and taking notes for Martin as well as attending her own classes. Martin recovered and graduated. He was offered a position in a law office in New York. Ruth transferred to Columbia University to be with her husband. She was elected to that law school review as well. In 1959 she graduated first in her class. However her top grades were not enough to get her a job. She experienced discrimination because she was a woman. She said, "I had three strikes against me: one, I was Jewish; two, I was a woman; but the killer was, I was a mother of a four-year-old child." (Source)

She found a position clerking for U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri. She held that position from 1959 to 1961. Ruth taught at Rutgers University Law School from 1962 to 1973 and Columbia from 1972-1980. She became Columbia University School of Law's first tenured female professor. On September 8, 1965, Ruth gave birth to their second child, James. In the 1970's she also served as the director of the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. She argued six cases in front of the United States Supreme Court on gender equality. She won five of them.

Ruth believed the law should be gender blind. One of the cases she argued actually benefited men. The social security benefits were paid to widows and not widowers. She fought to have it paid to both. 

In 1980 President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She served there until 1993 when President Bill Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court. She became the second woman to become a Supreme Court Justice and the first Jewish American woman. As a judge she used her voice in favor of gender equality, worker's rights, and separation of church and state. In 1996 she wrote the court's decision for the United States v. Virginia case which stated that the state-supported Virginia Military Institute could not refuse to admit women. In 1999 she won the American Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Award for her work on gender equality and civil rights. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2016 portrait

In 2000 she received attention for her writing on the Bush v. Gore case, which decided the presidency. She objected the court majority and ended her dissention without the word "respectfully" and only used "I dissent". This has become one of the quotes she is known for. She shared her thoughts on the dissentions and why they matter. "Dissents speak to a future age. It's not simply to say, 'My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.' But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that's the dissenter's hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow." (Source)

On October 2, 2002 Ruth Bader Ginsburg was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. In January 2007, she spoke at Suffolk Law School and said she disliked being the only woman on the Supreme Court. She said she had disagreed with former Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor "on a lot of important questions, but we have had the experience of growing up women and we have certain sensitivities that our male colleagues lack." (Source

One of my favorite quotes from Ruth Bader Ginsburg is "When I'm sometimes asked 'When will there be enough (women on the Supreme 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." (Source) Think about that. No one questions the idea of nine male Supreme Court Justices but it seems strange to think about having only women on it. 

In 2009 she wrote in her minority opinion in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear case, "The Court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims to pay discrimination." (Source) She was always fighting for equal rights for women and other minorities.  

On June 27, 2010 her husband, Martin, died. They were married for 56 years. Although they were seen as opposites in many ways there were each other's supports. Ruth was back in the court the day after he died. 

In August 2013, she became the first Supreme Court Justice to officiate a same-sex marriage. In 2013 Ruth got the nickname, Notorious RBG, after a late rapper, Notorious B.I.G. She issued a fiery dissent after the Supreme Court invalidated a part of the Voting Rights Act. She saw the Court's decision as racist. She likened the move to "throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet." (Source

In 2015 Ruth sided with the court majority to uphold the Affordable Cares Act and was a major influence in Obergefell v. Hodges case that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. The vote for it was 5-4.

Ruth and Justice Antonin Scalia were often seen on different sides of the cases. However the two were close friends. They and their spouses often would attend the opera together. In 2015 their friendship inspired a comic opera.

In 2016 Ruth released a memoir, In My Own Words. It is filled with her writings as far back as her junior high school years. It became a New York Times Bestseller List. In 2018 a documentary, RBG, was released at the Sun Dance Film Festival. She attended the premiere of it at the festival. She also shared about fighting off advances of a professor at Cornell as part of the #metoo movement. In interviews she defended the free press as well as an independent judiciary. There is also a Hollywood biopic, On the Basis of Sex, about her first her first discrimination case.

In July 2020 she revealed that she was being treated with chemotherapy for a recurrence of cancer. She battled cancer four times herself. She said it was having positive results. However she passed away in her home in Washington, D.C., on September 18, 2020 due to complications with pancreatic cancer. 

“Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”


Ruth Bader Ginsburg has influenced so many of our lives in ways we do not know. I know I saw a meme on Facebook the other day about any woman who has her own credit card (not through a parent or husband) can thank her among a list of other things. I feel it is important to honor RBG's life and also teach our children about her amazing achievements. I did a quick search of books on her and comprised this group of them. I tried to group them somewhat by age.

I hope you will join me in honoring this amazing woman and teaching our children about her. Our kids need strong female role models.