All opinions are 100% my own. I do not claim to nor does this article represent the opinions of St. Lawrence University, Her Campus Media, or any affiliated Chapter.
HC at St Law U is neither sponsored nor affiliated with any brands or companies mentioned in this article.
As if the people of the United States haven’t been heartbroken enough during the year 2020, as we have faced incredible highs and devastating lows. Yesterday, Friday, September 18, 2020, the world lost a role model. The United States lost yet another beloved public figure. The feminist community lost an inspiring leader. Of course, we must not forget, she was a loss of a loving mother, an amazing grandmother, and a beloved friend: Supreme Court Judge, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Upon hearing about the heartbreaking loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (also known as the “Notorious RBG”) last night, I knew I had to re-watch the documentary “RBG”.*
This documentary, which premiered in 2018, walks the audience through the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They capture the endless amounts of determination and dedication she had not only for her position as Supreme Court Justice, but for her family (parents, husband, children, and grandchildren) and her closest friends.
Here are the aspects of her life (as seen in the documentary, unless otherwise credited/linked) that I admire about her and enjoyed learning about her. I hope you take the chance to watch the beautiful documentary, as well.
HER DEDICATION TO HER LOVED ONES.
She was unbelievably dedicated to her family: to her mom, to her husband and their two children, and to her grandchildren. She sadly lost her mother when she was just 17 years old. But, she met her husband, Marty, at 18 years old. One year, when Marty was incredibly sick with a bout of cancer, she found herself coordinating with his friends/classmates to get class notes for her to type up and learn in order to help Marty with his coursework. What’s even more amazing is that she did this in addition to raising their two-year-old daughter, and in addition to being enrolled in her own courses! If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is.
Her dedication to her loved ones does not go unnoticed by them. She is depicted, by the documentary/her family members, as so humble that when she could have nominated herself as a potential/qualified judge in the Supreme Court, she wouldn’t nominate herself, even though her friends encouraged her to do so. That is when Marty stepped in and spoke on her behalf to the Clinton administration, and, soon thereafter, Ruth Bader Ginsberg became the 107th Justice of the United States Supreme Court under the Clinton administration.
HER INSISTENCE ON BREAKING BARRIERS.
The first barrier she broke was before she was even in the courtrooms.
During her time while studying law at Cornell (undergrad, Bachelor of Arts) and in Law School (Harvard and then Columbia where she received her LL.B), women were not wanted by most of the people in that profession. However, RBG knew what she wanted to pursue and she didn’t let anybody stop her in her path. In fact, that is how she met her husband. RBG proudly says, “Marty was so confident in his own ability, so comfortable with himself, that he never regarded me as any kind of threat.” As she pursued her career, Marty never tried to outshine her while also pursuing a career in parallel.
But you see, willfully pursuing a career which was dominated by men is just ONE barrier that she broke in her lifetime.
The one barrier that she broke that means a lot to me, as I’m sure it does for many readers of this article, was her dedication for equal protection to the law for women. She broke the barriers in such substantial ways. In fact, at the end of her first case (while not yet a part of, but) in front of the Supreme court, she’d captivated the audience and most importantly, the predominantly-male Supreme Court bench’s attention in a way that she never anticipated.
When she finally became a Supreme Court Justice, she was only one of two women on the bench at the time! NOW THAT is what I call breaking barriers!
HER LEGACY (AS LAWYER, JUDGE, AND FEMINISM ICON).
Her accomplishments in the Court Room (and out of the Court Room) began with her casework against sex-/gender-based discrimination laws. She would work incredibly long hours to ensure she was prepared.
Her first case (Frontiero v. Richardson, 1973) was the first time she was able to break a barrier as she provided a description to the judges on the bench about what it’s like to be a second class citizen. She continued to say, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
Her second case (Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 1975) provided her with the opportunity to show how gender-based discrimination even affects men.
In the case of Edwards v. Healy (1975), Ginsburg proclaims “Men and women are persons of equal dignity and they should count equally before the law.” At the time, she notes, that while in the courtroom, she felt like a teacher in a classroom full of children who had never acknowledged (or may never even knew) that sex-/gender-based discrimination existed, and she was able to convince the judges by reminding them of how they would like the world to be for their own daughters and granddaughters? Ginsburg says, “The gender line helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.”
In the Califano v. Goldfarb (1977) case, Ginsburg notably states, “The point is that the discriminatory line almost inevitably hurts women.”
At this point, there should be no surprise that Justice Ginsburg won 5 out of the 6 cases she ever argued in ~front of~ the Supreme Court–BEFORE she was even a Supreme Court Judge! But, even as she served on the bench for the Supreme Court, she continuously advocated for women’s rights and incessantly spoke against sex-/gender-based discrimination under the U.S. Constitution.
It goes without saying that women today are indebted to her for her selflessness, and her hard work and dedication towards a better future.
May Ruth Bader Ginsburg Rest in Power and Peace.
May her legacy never be forgotten, and her dedication and perseverance inspire our generation and those that follow.
“The spirit of liberty must fall first and foremost in the hearts of the men and women who compose this great nation. A community where the least shall be heard and considered, side by side with the greatest. I will keep that wisdom in the front of my mind as long as I am capable of judicial service.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg
(March 15, 1993 – September 18, 2020)
* The documentary “RBG” is still available to watch on Hulu (as of September 19, 2020).