Courtesy of Ruven Afanador
On September 18, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed from pancreatic cancer. Early on in her career, she fought for equality between men and women as a lawyer. As a justice, she continued to fight against gender discrimination, transforming the law in our country. Standing out as a symbol for women’s rights movements, Ginsburg led feminists into a new age for America. Despite her age, she continued as a justice until her death, representing the determination of the human spirit. Ginsburg lived a remarkable life, and in this package, Eastside invites you to travel back to the past to understand how a Jewish girl from Brooklyn changed America.
With her cool intelligence, diligent work, and perseverance, Ginsburg continues to inspire feminists in America. Her passion for dismantling sexism and fighting for women’s rights coined her the nickname, Notorious RBG.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been a feminist icon even before her distinguished career in the Supreme Court. The rights women possess nowadays would be lacking if it weren’t for her work.
Prior to entering the Supreme Court as the second female justice, she also faced macro and micro aggressions. As a woman who had the ambitions of becoming a lawyer, Ginsburg strived for academic excellence and entered Harvard Law school as one out of nine total female undergraduates. When she arrived, the dean questioned why she had taken a spot from a male.
Although she faced inequality along the way, she earned outstanding grades. When her cancer-patient husband could not attend his classes, she helped with his course and class work, all the while watching their young daughter. It is this determination and grit Ginsburg possessed that inspires so many people in and outside America.
She later worked at Rutgers Law School, yet she faced unequal pay compared to her male colleagues. After joining an equal pay campaign with other female teachers, their salaries increased. Ginsburg fought for her beliefs, and strived for equality.
Ginsburg’s work has also improved women’s reproductive rights and opportunities in the workplace. She won five major cases which gave women in America the rights they possess nowadays.
Without her, women would not be admitted into state funded schools, be required to attend juries, or become financially independent.Ginsburg also fought for female representation in law and financial independence apart from men. Her work led to the Equal Opportunity Act, which prevents discrimination based on factors outside of creditworthiness, and allowed women to open credit cards and funds without a male co-signer. As the co-founder of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Women’s Project, she also pushed for women’s rights including education and employment.
Although Ginsburg faced gender discrimination at every turn throughout her career, she used her experiences to fight for women’s rights and equality throughout America.
One thing is for sure, Ginsburg’s legacy will continue to live on and encourage feminists around the world.
The Early Years
Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a long life full of success, but she faced lots of adversity prior to being appointed to Supreme Court Justice. Ginsburg’s life started out to be very difficult when her mother was diagnosed and passed away with cancer, the day before Ginsburg graduated high school. Her drive to be successful and influential in her life started there.
She graduated from Cornell University at the top of her class, and was very determined to get good grades so that she could be very successful later on in life. After college, she met her husband that she immediately fell in love with.
This may sound like a happily ever after, but there were many more struggles to come. The article Ruth Bader Ginsburg from oyez.org says, “Ginsburg’s personal struggles neither decreased in intensity nor deterred her in any way from reaching and exceeding her academic goals, even when her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1956, during her first year of law school.” Instead of leaving her husband, Ginsburg decided to make the life changing decision to stay with him and support him while he is deathly ill. While Ginsburg was taking care of her sick husband, she still maintained her academic career at Harvard law school.
While at Harvard law, Ginsburg faced many challenges, such as gender based discrimination. She was one of nine women out of 500 people in her class. Ginsburg knew that this was wrong and felt that women should be judged for more than just their gender. This was just the beginning of the discrimination she went through during her life. The article The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg from aclu.org says, “She had difficulties finding a job until a favorite Columbia professor explicitly refused to recommend any other graduates before U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri hired Ginsburg as a clerk. Ginsburg clerked under Judge Palmieri for two years. After this, she was offered some jobs at law firms, but always at a much lower salary than her male counterparts.” Ginsburg constantly felt that males were given more opportunities than females, and she had to do something about it.
Instead of just letting the situation roll off of her shoulders, she stepped up to the plate. The article Ruth Bader Ginsburg from oyez.org says, “Ginsburg also directed the influential Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s. In this position, she led the fight against gender discrimination and successfully argued six landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.” Ginsburg didn’t just fight for women’s rights, but also rights for men. After all the amazing work she did for women and mens rights, Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1993.
Ginsburg continued to advocate for women’s rights. She believed that the fight for women wasn’t over until they received justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life will never be forgotten, as she fought through many struggles, and changed the world that we live in today.
Case by Case
In the 1970s, Ginsburg fought against gender discrimination, winning five of her six gender discrimination cases in the Supreme Court. Not only did Ginsburg fight for women, but she also fought for the men who were discriminated against as well. For example, Ginsburg argued on behalf of Charles Moritz, who was denied a $296 tax deduction. In 1970, Mr. Moritz had hired a nurse to help care for his elderly mother. However, when he tried to claim a tax deduction for the cost, he discovered that since he was a bachelor, unlike a woman, a widow, or divorced man, he was ineligible. Ginsburg, along with her husband, argued that the denial was based on the assumption that only women cared for others. They won the case in the Supreme Court, which subsequently brought down hundreds of American laws based on gender roles. And in the Frontiero vs Richardson case, she argued women in the military shouldn’t be denied the same benefits as men.
In 1980, president Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the US Court of Appeals. She served on the court until president Bill Clinton appointed her to the highest court in the land in 1993. Looking back in her time in the Supreme Court, Ginsburg had a profound impact on American law and society. Starting with the United States v. Virginia case, Ginsberg wrote the majority opinion that monumentally shifted the advancement of women’s rights and university admission policies. Furthermore, she played a significant role in the majority decision for the Olmstead v. L.C. case, which was monumental for the rights of people with disabilities.
However, not all of Ginsburg’s impacts came through majority decisions. In the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber case, Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for gender discrimination because she found out that she had received lower pay than her male counterparts despite having the same qualifications and a 19-year career at Goodyear. The case ruled in favor of Goodyear, and it ended up hurting workers because it set a standard that made it difficult to sue their employers over allegations of wage discrimination. Ginsberg famously dissented from the Supreme Court’s decision, stating “the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.”
In the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush took a lead over Al Gore by less than 0.5% in Florida, meaning that there would be a recount. However, Gore feared that the election’s ballot polls had inherent flaws, and he asked for a hand vote recount of the ballots. The Florida Supreme Court agreed with his decision, but the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision for a manual recount of votes was unconstitutional. They ruled 5-4 that there was no alternative way to recount the votes. This decision secured Bush’s victory. Justice Ginsburg dissented to the decision and wrote that the “conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the Court’s own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the Presidency of the United States.” And instead of concluding with the traditional “I respectfully dissent,” Ginsburg concluded with her now-trademarked “I dissent,” and the rest was history.
RBG and Scalia: Learning from their Friendship
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a feminist icon. She utilized her strength and skills to empower women all over the world. As the second woman and first Jewish woman, on the Supreme Court, RBG left her mark on this country after years of fighting for equal rights. Aside from her long legal career as a pioneering advocate for her beliefs, her professionalism and respect for her peers created the bipartisan spirit that our country once had.
Justice Antonin Scalia and RBG had a renowned platonic relationship, seen as the court’s most famous odd yet inspirational friendship. Scalia and RBG were two brilliant individuals who were from completely different worlds with utterly contrasting ideologies. RBG was known as a liberal feminist icon who fought tirelessly throughout her career for equal rights and to evolve constitutional texts. Scalia, who is deceased as well, was considered a strong legal conservative who believed in the original meanings of constitutional texts and a limited role for the federal government. Although the two were no match made in heaven, their platonic and professional relationship truly emphasizes the shortcomings that modern American has encountered.
In the current environment, political parties are the way in which individuals identify themselves in this country. Though there is a sheer importance of maintaining political parties, distinguishing oneself through their political affiliation only creates the divide in the country. It is fair to assume that every person in this country has one opinion that differs from other people, whether it be regarding gun control or their favorite pizza topping. As shown by Scalia and RBG, it is normal and fair to have differing opinions, yet discovering commonalities between those perceived as opposites can only generate more respect and understanding of others. Scalia and RBG believed in rulings on different sides of the political spectrum, yet they maintained their close relationship through other similarities in their lives: such as their love of the law, music, traveling, teaching, and fighting for their beliefs. The two had a sense of appreciation for their differences, leaving their minds open to learning from each other and gaining respect for the passion that each of them held, despite what exactly that passion was directed towards.
Our country can learn a multitude of lessons from the relationship between Scalia and RBG. We can learn how to respectfully welcome debates and differences among peers. A democracy is built upon differing opinions and the freedom to voice one’s perspective, yet our country’s fault has been with respecting the opposing beliefs. With little debates or differences, the Scalia-Ginsburg friendship would not have worked, as well as the foundation of our country. Although their relationship was marked by differences, their respect and admiration for one another created the healthy friendship that we all know and applaud.
The year of 2020 has been branded by the several monumental events in our country, from the global pandemic to protests regarding Black Lives Matter. The political deadlock that has emerged in the past months have shown that a bipartisan atmosphere and relationships are at risk in our country. In times marked by a divide, it is essential to create a positive environment by utilizing the lessons that the Scalia-Ginsburg relationship paved for our country. Respect the opinions of your friends, even if they are the opposite of your own. Remain open minded and considerate of the past experiences of others. Try to learn from the differences that you may share with a peer. In memory of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, become tolerant of differing opinions and allow yourself to be willing to learn from others for the betterment of our country.
RBG’s Best Quotes
“My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent. The study of law was unusual for women of my generation. For most girls growing up in the ’40s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S.”
Today, as the nation commemorates Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life, it would be an understatement to say that she was a strong and independent woman. She was a legend who stood up for herself and encouraged others to do the same. It was shown by her that being a “lady” and being “independent” are closely connected with each other and she inspired so many females to show what it means to be an independent female.
“You think about what would have happened … Suppose I had gotten a job as a permanent associate. Probably I would have climbed up the ladder and today I would be a retired partner. So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great good fortune.”
RBG’s persistent determination shines through in this quote. After the many hardships in her personal life, she has given strength not only to herself but to the people around her as well. Ginsburg constantly proved to believe in the best of situations and make the most out of every opportunity.
“I … try to teach through my opinions, through my speeches, how wrong it is to judge people on the basis of what they look like, color of their skin, whether they’re men or women.”
To educate and teach others was important to Ginsburg. She was a strong believer in many things, but no matter what she was advocating for, she made sure to leave an impact and strong message behind. As she made a true impact on the nation, RBG was and remains a legend.
“We care about this institution more than our individual egos and we are all devoted to keeping the Supreme Court in the place that it is, as a co-equal third branch of government and I think a model for the world in the collegiality and independence of judges.”
Ginsburg teaches in this quote that sometimes to achieve something great as a whole requires people to set aside personal beliefs. She proved this to be true during her time on the Supreme Court, as she respected her fellow colleagues regardless of their disagreements.
“My grandchildren love it. At my advanced age—I’m now an octogenarian—I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who want to take my picture.”
RBG, also known as an internet sensation, shows her humorous wit in this quote of hers. The “octogenarian” was especially popular among young people, where many stores sold RBG t-shirts, pillows, mugs, and dolls. Being the “Notorious RBG”, it only makes sense that she was known iconically as a force to be reckoned with.
“I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.”
Now, as Ginsburg has passed away, it can be very well stated that she is indeed remembered as someone who did everything she could do in her power to serve the country on the Supreme Court to the best she could. RBG worked hard during her life to bring about change in order to ameliorate the United States in regards to gender and racial equality. Even though she is not here with us today, her legacy and what she has done will live on.
Leaving Behind a Legacy
The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has led the country to mourning. All of the great things that she has accomplished throughout her lifetime will forever make an impact on America’s government.
Before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a Supreme Court Justice, there were many inequalities for women living in America. In her earlier years, RBG was only one of nine women who attended Harvard Law School, and she cared for her sick husband at the time. Justice Ginsburg would open many doors for women in her years as an attorney and on the supreme court.
Throughout her journey as an attorney, Ruth Bader Ginsburg made it her mission to bring cases up to the Supreme Court to pass laws that would ensure equality for all. Her hard work as an attorney carried her to the highest status in court, a Supreme Court Justice.
During Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s time as a Supreme Court Justice, she passed many laws to create a future of equality that she did not get to experience. Some examples of laws that she has passed include but are not limited to: requiring state funded schools to admit women, juries must include women, and women have the right to financial benefits and equal benefits. The list continues on and on. But during her time on the Supreme Court, her famous “I Dissent” is something that people will treasure in their hearts as representative of her fiery spirit.
All of these laws that were mentioned and more that she has helped pass will continue to make an impact in America. Without these laws, who knows how different the conditions for women in the workforce would look like today.
Although Justice Ginsburg is no longer on the Bench today, our country will never be the same. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and universal equality were all results due to RBG’s commitment to advocate for justice.
What does RBG mean to you?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on September 18, 2020 in Washington D.C. She was a Supreme Court justice and role model to so many kids, teenagers, and adults across the globe. She played a vital role in many Supreme Court Rulings. Although she is no longer physically here, she will still be remembered by so many because of her memorable actions and legacy. She has left her mark on this world after fighting for gender equality and women’s rights throughout her law career.
Lisa Gorbati, (‘21) said, “She inspired me to stand up for what I believe in and her actions will live on.”
Ginsburg said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” This quote resonates with Emma Greenberg, (22). Greenberg said, “RBG was a bold feminist who represented what it means to be a fearless woman. She was also a great Jewish role model to me.
Jesse Sklar (‘24) said, “Ginsburg was an inspiration for minority groups and less privileged people. She spent every moment of her life fighting for what she believed in; even from her hospital bed.”
Max Gaffin, (‘22) said, “RBG was a trailblazer for rights of women and men across the United States. She represents everything that I hope to be one day- a person who stands for things bigger than themselves. She inspires me to be the best leader that I can be and she makes me think that I can do whatever I set my mind to.”
Grace Pierlott, (‘22) said, “I aspire to be half as strong as RBG was and will always look up to her as my role model. Her strength, dedication, commitment to her job, her family, and fighting for a more equal America was inspiring.”
Lalitha Viswanathan, (‘22) said, “I really appreciate that she kept warm friendships with people who had polar opposite political opinions as her own, which is a practice that most Americans should adopt. Also, her impact on abortion reform and female independence will forever leave an impact on this country. I believe that every woman is indebted to RBG due to her contributions for all of us.”
Sophie Neuwirth, (‘23) said, “It was so empowering to see a confident and passionate woman like RBG hold such a high position in our country.”
Ilana Chase, (‘23) said, “RBG inspired me to always try and achieve my goal no matter what. Also, she helped many generations believe that women can do anything.
Alisha Fazal, (‘22) said, “RBG is a huge inspiration to me, as she overcame so many obstacles that she faced because she was a woman.”
Tharunika Govindasamy, (‘22) said, “I looked up to Ginsburg in numerous ways for she was respectable, intelligent, and an independent woman who stood for women’s rights and never once let down her supporters. Her death is not only devastating, but makes me quite anxious for the threatened future of women empowerment in this nation.”
Ginsburg will be missed, but her legacy will live on for generations.
This story was originally published on Eastside on October 16, 2020.