This past Friday, crowds of mourners gathered outside the United States Supreme Court several hours after it was announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, had died. Rainbow flags waved and candles were lit as the crowd mourned the loss of an iconic figure in the United States government. At her time of death, Ginsburg was fighting her fifth fight with cancer and serving her twenty-seventh year on the bench.
Ginsburg, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933, was a graduate of Cornell University and earned her law degree from Columbia University while caring for her daughter and ill husband, Marty. While in school, she was a sister of Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority and Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity. However, despite her strong credentials, she had faced a major dilemma. Due to her status as a Jewish mother, Ginsburg was denied many job opportunities. This obstacle only led her to work for the ACLU and help create their Women’s Rights Project. She would also teach civil procedure at Rutgers University School of Law. Before her appointment to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Clinton, Ginsburg argued six cases before on sex discrimination.
Over the course of her twenty-seven-year career on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg proved herself to be a champion for marginalized groups. She became an icon among young liberals, particularly women, who were inspired by seeing an intelligent and eloquent woman deliver opinions in a male-dominated field. She earned the nickname “the Notorious R.B.G.” in reference to the Notorious B.I.G., much to Ginsburg’s pride: “We were both born and bred in Brooklyn, New York.” It is nearly impossible to go into a boutique and not see a mug, t-shirt, apron or book emblazoned with Justice Ginsburg’s bespectacled face, signature collar and/or the words “I dissent.”
Ginsburg’s death means several things for this country. First, it means that the leading liberal justice on the Supreme Court is gone and will be replaced (maybe soon, maybe not). Second, it means that a champion of racial and gender equality has left this world and made it a better place while she was here. Third, it means that Ginsburg’s legacy must be continued by all who felt inspired by her. If the only thing that could prevent Justice Ginsburg from continuing to serve was death, then no feat is too onerous for young liberal activists who want to see a change in this world.