“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg
On September 18, 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. She was the first woman and first Jew to lie in state at the national Capitol. Why is her legacy so important? Why did Notorious R.B.G., as she’s fondly known, inspire millions?
Have you ever been denied a job or a promotion because of your gender or discriminated against based on your sex? If you’re young, you probably don’t even realize how incredibly commonplace that was.
Justice Ginsburg is perhaps the single most influential litigator and advocate that worked to make this kind of discrimination illegal. Her tireless efforts as a litigator and as the second female Supreme Court Justice helped to change lives and laws. She drafted the now famous brief in the Reed v. Reed Supreme Court Case Ending Discrimination on the Basis of Sex which made gender a protected class under the 14th Amendment and made discrimination against women illegal under the Constitution.
Here are some of the 5 Most Important Laws Ginsburg helped change:
• Employers may not discriminate against women based on gender or reproductive choices. With the ACLU Women’s Rights Project that Ginsburg co- founded in 1972 she worked to make these laws and many others that discriminated on the basis of sex or reproductive choices illegal.
• In 1996 Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion that state-funded schools like the Virginia Military Academy accept female students. United States v. Virginia.
• Ginsburg’s work helped paved the way for the passage of the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Prior to that women were denied credit cards, mortgages or car loans without a male co-signor.
• In the case of Moritz v. Commissioner Ginsburg argued before the Supreme Court to dismantle years of discrimination against women by first arguing the case of a man that had been denied benefits as his mother’s caretaker because he did not fit the preconceived notion of a caretaker which was female.
• Up until 1979 women were not required to serve on juries. Ginsburg fought to have this changed. Ginsburg told USA Today 2009 that “Women belong in all places where decisions are made,” and argued that their civic duty should be valued the same as men’s.
Joan Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1933. In a 2019 NPR Interview Ginsburg said, “I went to law school when women were less than 3% of lawyers in the country.” Ginsburg was one of only 8 women accepted into a class of 552 at Harvard Law school where her husband Martin Ginsburg was also a student. Ginsburg and the other women were asked by the then Dean of Harvard Law, Erwin Griswold, “why she (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) felt entitled to be in class taking the place of a man.”
While at Harvard her husband Martin was diagnosed with cancer. She not only took care of their first child, she nursed her husband through radiation therapy and transcribed notes for him so that he could graduate on time. She did all this while being the first ever female head of the Harvard Law Review. When her husband got a job in New York she transferred to Columbia Law School where she worked on the Columbia Law Review and became the first woman ever to be on two major law reviews.
Despite graduating first in her class at Columbia Law School in 1959, she could not get a job at a law firm due to sexism. Instead she clerked for a Judge then worked in academia before becoming a law professor. Ginsburg became just the second female U.S. Supreme Court justice when she took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. Her potential replacement, Amy Coney Barrett, would be the third female Supreme Court justice.
What did you know about the Notorious R.B.G. before her passing?