RBG: the Life and Legacy of a Legend

Audrey Engel, Reporter

On September 18, 2020, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a beloved Supreme Court justice, passed away due to complications from pancreatic cancer. Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Ginsburg lived a long and enormously successful life. Her accomplishments are astounding, especially considering the patriarchal obstacles that plagued her career. She is known as a champion of gender equality who initiated enormous growth in women’s rights and equality as a whole.

Ginsburg’s path to the Supreme Court was a long, strenuous journey afflicted with sickness, sexism, and countless struggles. She began her education in public schools, before attending Cornell University for her undergraduate years, where she met her husband, Martin Ginsburg. She remarked that she found Martin so attractive because he “cared that she had a brain.” After graduating from Cornell, Ginsburg could only acquire a job as a typist, which she soon lost after becoming pregnant. Two years later, she and her husband continued their education at Harvard Law School, while her husband battled testicular cancer all while having a three year old child. Following a lengthy battle with taking care of her husband’s testicular cancer, she transferred to Columbia Law School and graduated at the top of her class.

After her extensive and impressive schooling, Ginsburg struggled terribly to find a job. Although her qualifications were plentiful, careers in law were closed to women and, even with a recommendation for a Supreme Court clerkship, she did not receive an interview. As she later recounted her experiences, she recalled blatant sexism entailing male judges worrying not only that she was a female, but that she had familial obligations due to her child. Finally, after her law professor pulled a few strings, she received the clerkship and was employed there for two years, instead of the usual one.

After her clerkship, she learned Swedish to collaborate with Anders Bruzelius, a Swedish judge, before she began teaching at Rutgers Law School. At Rutgers, she continued her impact on women’s rights, taking on multiple cases, some with her husband. Once she seemed to earn a reputation, she became the first female professor at Columbia Law School and founded the Women’s Rights Project for ACLU. Ginsburg chose to represent men often in order to show establishment-acquainted judges that women’s rights affect males too. With two children, she often worked into late hours of the night.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter nominated Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She stayed on the Court of Appeals for 13 years before being nominated for the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton at age 60. Clinton had several options aside from Ginsburg, but with her charm and her husband’s lobbying, Clinton and the Senate were sold on her. She was confirmed to the Supreme Court 96-3.

On the Supreme Court, as the second female confirmed, RBG continued to strive to free society of harsh gender roles which she experienced heavily throughout her life. Her opinions on the court were well put together and straight forward. She soon donned her iconic “dissenting collar,” which she wore on days where she announced her dissent. She also wore her collar on the day following President Trump’s election; before her passing, she stated “my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Justice Ginsburg had around 200 majority opinions, one of her favorites being M.L.B. vs. L.S.J., a case that ruled whether parents could appeal a termination of their rights. Due to a lack of constitutional direction, Justice Ginsburg anchored her opinion from a separate line of cases entailing rights to familial connections.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although very vocal and outspoken on the court, was more reserved and quiet in social settings. She was also known for being very put together in her style and in her apparel. Justice Ginsburg is a women’s rights icon and her passing has and will affect countless lives.

Who should choose Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement?

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