Ruth Bader Ginsburg born Joan Ruth Bader has passed away from pancreatic cancer at 87 years old. The associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States was a leader, hero, and crusader for women‘s rights. Without RBG, women would not have the same rights they do today. RBG was appointed to the supreme court by President Bill Clinton and served since August 10, 1993- 27 years on the nation’s highest court. The Supreme court made the announcement, citing the cause as “complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.” She died at her home surrounded by family. “Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence, that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.” Since the start of her career, RBG has been an inspiration for women of all ages as a feminist hero. A documentary, biopic, an operetta, and a Time magazine cover were all made in her honor. RBG was an icon in popular culture and was dubbed “The Notorious R.B.G.” NPR reported that just days before her death, Ginsburg dictated this statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
RBG was born March 15, 1933, in New York City. Her father was a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine, and her mother was born in NYC to Austrian Jewish parents. Her older sister died when she was just over 1 year old and her mother died of cancer the day before she was set to graduate high school. She then went to Cornell University on a full scholarship where she met her husband Martin Ginsburg. According to NPR, RBG said, “What made Marty so overwhelmingly attractive to me was that he cared that I had a brain.” The couple attended Harvard Law School together after getting married and having a baby. Unfortunately, her husband was soon diagnosed with testicular cancer. “So that left Ruth with a 3-year-old child, a fairly sick husband, the law review, classes to attend and feeding me,” said Marty in a 1993 interview with NPR. Marty survived and she transferred to Columbia and graduated at the top of her law school class. But despite having strong recommendations from her college professors and her academic achievements, it was difficult for her to find a job because of her gender. When she finally landed a teaching job at Rutgers law school she hid her second pregnancy by wearing her mother-in-law‘s clothes to ensure they would renew her contract. And it worked.
Before her appointment, RBG made her name as a lawyer campaigning for gender equality and the advancement of women‘s rights. She changed the world for women then, and for women now. Her battle began when women were distinctly different in the eyes of the law. They were less than men, without rights, protection, and agency over their own bodies. In 1970 she co-founded the first law journal in the U.S. to focus exclusively on women’s rights called the Women’s Rights Law Reporter. She also acted as general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she argued over 300 gender discrimination cases. In 1972, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. She later became the director and argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five. One of her greatest successes was with the 14th Amendment. After filing dozens of briefings she argued the guarantee of equal protection applies not just to racial and ethnic minorities, but women as well. In an interview with NPR, she explained the legal theory that she eventually sold to the Supreme Court. “The words of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause — ’nor shall any state deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.’ Well that word, ’any person,’ covers women as well as men. And the Supreme Court woke up to that reality in 1971,” Ginsburg said. Three years after her appointment in 1996 she wrote the court‘s 7-1 opinion declaring that the Virginia Military Institute could no longer remain an all-male institution. “Reliance on overbroad generalizations ... estimates about the way most men or most women are, will not suffice to deny the opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description,” Ginsburg wrote.
Before her death, RBG had 5 bouts with cancer stemming back to 1999 when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Ten years later she was later diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and then lung cancer in 2018. Her pancreatic cancer returned in 2019. During this period she kept up her public appearances, endured chemotherapy, radiation, and pain. She refused to step down as long as she was able.
RBG’s husband Marty passed away in 2010 of cancer. She found a note he had written to her as she packed up his things in the hospital. “My Dearest Ruth,” it began, “You are the only person I have ever loved,” setting aside children and family. “I have admired and loved you almost since the day we first met at Cornell...The time has come for me to ... take leave of life because the loss of quality simply overwhelms. I hope you will support where I come out, but I understand you may not. I will not love you a jot less.” The day after Marty died, RBG was on the bench reading to the court. According to NPR, she was there, she said, because “Marty would have wanted it.”
“I do think that I was born under a very bright star,” she said in an NPR interview. “Because if you think about my life, I get out of law school. I have top grades. No law firm in the city of New York will hire me. I end up teaching; it gave me time to devote to the movement for evening out the rights of women and men. ” RBG supporters have gathered at the supreme court to mourn her passing.
Thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Rest In Power.