Ruth Bader Ginsburg, born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933, is regarded as one of the fiercest and most successful advocates for gender equality. She was raised by Nathan and Celia Bader in Brooklyn, New York, in an observant Jewish family. Ruth excelled in school and was very active in student activities. However, her youth was not without hardship. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer upon Ruth’s entrance into high school and died a few days before her graduation. As the unfolding of her life would display, however, RBG was not meek in the face of adversity.
According to MSN News’ article “Remembering RBG,” she had her first taste of injustice in high school when her parents asked her to get a job so there would be money for her older brother to go to college. However, this degradation did not discourage her; in 1950, she entered Cornell University on a full scholarship. There, she met her husband, Marty Ginsburg, whom she claimed “was the only guy who cared she had a brain.” In 1956, she entered Harvard Law School as one of nine women in her class. She served as the first female editor of the Harvard Law Review. More impressively, she studied for two during law school because her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Therefore, she attended his lectures and took notes so that he would be able to graduate on time – all the while caring for their young daughter, Jane. Once Marty recovered, they moved to New York where she continued her studies at Columbia Law School. Despite these challenges, she graduated in 1959 tied for first in her class.
Upon entrance into the workforce, she was laden with disadvantages. Being a woman, a mother, and a Jew seeking a place in the professional world bore no prospects beyond secretary work. However, she was hired in 1963 at Rutgers Law School as an assistant professor receiving a low salary. In 1970, she embarked upon her journey towards gender equality, founding the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. Despite its exclusive title, this project worked towards abolishing gender stereotypes and the restrictions that accompanied them. For example, she fought against a tax ordinance that did not provide deductions for a single man working as a caregiver for his family. According to NY Mag’s September 18th article “The Glorious RBG”, “in 1972, she represented Susan Struck, a pregnant Air Force nurse who was forced to choose between having an abortion or losing her job.” Ginsburg argued that “individual potential must not be restrained, nor equal opportunity limited, by law-sanctioned stereotypical prejudgments.” This case was quite relevant to its era – the time of Roe v. Wade. She believed that the ruling was “too sweeping” and that a law that simply barred state abortion prohibition would “have served to reduce rather than to fuel controversy.” However, one cannot mistake her views upon the matter – she applauded the autonomy granted to women but thought that the way it was delivered was accompanied by unnecessary controversy.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court with a Senate vote of 96-3. Notable for her cutting dissents, “she broke the record for dissenting from the bench” according to NY Mag’s “The Glorious RBG.” She claimed that she was “a very strong believer in listening and learning from others,” and therefore put forth tactful and productive dissent instead of inflammatory and divisive rhetoric. While on the Supreme Court, she continued to advocate for women on the matters of abortion and the wage gap. Since her death on September 18, 2020, her legacy has been celebrated. Her undying persistence led her to overcome the inherent adversity that accompanied womanhood in the 20th century while also working to ease the burden of sex-based discrimination upon men and women alike. RBG once said that “so often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” However, it can be said that, without her determination, her setbacks would not have been regarded as fortunate, and that her unwillingness to submit to the challenges of being a woman in the professional world allowed her to rise to the highest court in the land.