In 2019, most of the internet has already heard of the so-called Notorious RBG. The Supreme Court’s second-ever female justice has earned quite a reputation as a stalwart supporter of women’s rights, especially by defending a woman’s right to choose both on and off the Court for over forty years. However, while this is an amazing feat in and of itself, there are so many things that make her everyone’s favorite Court Supreme justice. For example, at least for me, the story of Ruth’s early career can always bring a tear to my eye. Read on for five facts that will have you, too, crying over this amazing Supreme Court justice.
1. She Faced Massive Gender-Based Discrimination When Establishing Her Career
In a class of over 500 at Harvard Law, Ruth was one of just nine women. In a moment made famous by the 2018 movie On the Basis of Sex, Ruth and her other female classmates famously attended a dinner party hosted by the dean of the law school in which they had to explain to him why they felt they deserved a law school spot that could have gone to a man. At Harvard Law, women were excluded from a particular room in the Lamont Library, making it impossible for Ruth to access a particular periodical to do a certain cite-checking assignment. Years later, after she graduated law school (though from Columbia, not Harvard — the Ginsburgs had to move to New York for Marty’s work), she couldn’t find a job at any firm in New York City.
2. Law School Held Challenges Beyond Gender-Based Discrimination For Ruth…
Ruth’s husband Marty was diagnosed with testicular cancer during her first year of law school in 1956. The Ginburgs were actually both enrolled at Harvard, and Ruth took on the task of attending his classes in addition to her own to keep him up on his studies while he was ill. Attending law school is difficult enough on its own, but Ruth somehow managed to help Marty with his coursework while keeping up with her own and caring for their 15-month-old daughter, Jane.
3. …But Her Challenges Did Not Stop Ruth From Excelling
Even though her husband was seriously ill, Ruth excelled at Harvard, maintaining a spot at the top of her class in spite of massive challenges at home. She became the first female member of the Harvard Law Review and, upon transferring to Columbia, joined their law review and graduated first in her class. Famously, her daughter Jane said, “That’s my mommy” when she saw Ruth walk across the stage to accept her diploma.
4. You Can Thank Ruth For Gender-Based Civil Rights Protection
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would have made gender-based discrimination unconstitutional, was proposed in the 1970s but was never passed. Attorneys advocating for gender equality during that time needed to find another way to apply constitutional guarantees to women’s rights. As an attorney, Ginsburg advised on the 1976 case Craig v. Boren, a case in which the Supreme Court reviewed an Oklahoma law that allowed 18-year-old women to buy beer, but required that male consumers be 21 before purchasing. Ginsburg filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of the ACLU (where she directed its famous women’s rights project) that ultimately contributed to the justices raising the standard for gender-based equality in the law.
5. Ruth and Marty Were Definitely #CoupleGoals
Having come of age in the 1950s, Ruth noted that her husband Marty was the “first boy I ever knew who cared that I had a brain.” Ruth nursed her husband back to health when he had cancer in the early years of their marriage. And Marty campaigned for Ruth’s career not once but twice, supporting her when she secured first a federal judgeship and later when she was nominated to the Supreme Court.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is more than just the Supreme Court’s second female justice. She’s an accomplished academic, an incredible attorney, and a fearless advocate for women’s rights. Further, she was a devoted partner who enjoyed mutual support with her husband through thick and thin until his death in 2010. Ultimately, there are many reasons to celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Remember that the next time you hear the 86-year-old legal powerhouse’s name in the news.