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Ruth Bader Ginsberg the legend who changed America

Notorious RBG

a shrine to the beloved justice

Following the announcement of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death on September 18, 2020, the world became a darker place. Instagram stories were filled with obituaries, Twitter users posted links to articles, and puffy-eyed Tik Tokers sobbed without reservations on camera. A million questions that have yet to be answered still hang in the air as women, the LGBTQIA community, the Jewish community, and countless others fear for their rights. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, also known as The Thurgood Marshall of the Women’s Rights Movement, changed the world and was an integral part of the fight for gender equality.

A legend named Joan Ruth Bader was born on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn NY during the midst of the Great Depression. Her father sold furs and her mother worked at a garment factory, but they still struggled like the majority of America at this time. Despite their economic struggles, her mother poured every cent she made into Ruth’s older brother’s higher education and inadvertently taught her daughter a lesson--the importance of knowledge. Ruth took that lesson to heart. Even when her mother passed due to cancer the day before her high school graduation, she had to get more knowledge. She got a full scholarship to Cornell where she became the top of her class despite being one of nine women in a class of 500 students. She dealt with insult after insult, being scorned for, “taking a man’s spot,” and pushed herself harder and harder. After graduating from Cornell in 1954, She took a short break from her education to start her family before being accepted into Harvard.

During her time at Harvard, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Not only did she continue working on her education while caring for her child, but she worked harder upon hearing her husband’s diagnosis. “I wasn’t going to just sit in the corner and cry,” Daniel P.S. Paul, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, remembers her say when asked about this trying time of her life. Instead, she did the opposite--she worked harder. She transferred to Columbia Law and graduated in 1959, soon after her husband recovered from his fight with cancer.

She applied to jobs and was instantly rejected. What respectable court wanted a woman? One of her professors, in an act of frustration, essentially bullied a few judges to get her a job as a clerk where she was paid far less than her male counterparts. It didn’t take her long to decide that wasn’t enough. She joined the Columbia Project on International Civil Procedure and lived abroad researching Swedish procedure practices. She became a professor at Rutgers University Law School until Columbia Law offered her a job where she became their first female professor. Later, she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by Jimmy Carter in 1980. She served on the court for thirteen years until 1993, when Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In the Supreme Court, Ginsburg’s years of suffering and righteous fury were unleashed. In Struck versus Secretary of Defense, Susan Struck fought to be allowed to keep her unborn child and her job in the military. In the 1970s, military women had two choices: become a mother and lose her job, or have an illegal and life-threatening abortion. Struck disliked both options and took legal action, but the Supreme court refused to hear her argument. Ginsberg stepped in and argued, “only women become pregnant, and if you subject a woman to disadvantageous treatment on the basis of her pregnant status ... you would be denying her equal treatment under the law." She pointed out that a broken bone can prevent someone from working for months. Why should a pregnancy be any different? She fought for women to keep their children. She fought for them to have the right to abortions. She did not fight for Roe v Wade to make her party happy but fought for her gender to have the ability to choose who they are and how they get there.

Susan Struck was lucky to be in the military. Some military branches such as the Virginia Military Institute forbade women from attending their school until Ginsberg came along. Now women have the right to choose to go to similar military schools and fight for their country.

Again and again, she took her stance. After being offered so many demeaning jobs, she became the reason why women are paid the same as their male counterparts. In Ledbetter v. Goodyear (2009), Goodyear almost managed to get away with discriminatory pay by using a technicality, and Ginsberg’s response was to march up to Barack Obama and push him to sign equal pay acts. Because of her, I get paid the same amount as my male counterparts. She’s the reason my female friends can hold their heads high as they apply for STEM careers and enlist in the military.

She stepped up and dissented in Romez V. Evans. For those unfamiliar with the case, Colorado tried to pass an amendment that allowed discrimination against, "homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships." Ginsberg destroyed the amendment. She fought against LGBT discrimination, racism, and sexism. She fought for our freedom to choose and our freedom to live. If she is not the personification of American ideals, I don’t know who is.

She drastically changed the world. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin said the following in her opinion piece: “I would never have become a lawyer, millions of women would never have become lawyers — or judges or doctors or businesswomen or full members of American society — had she not had the sheer intellectual firepower and will convince courts that ‘protections’ for women were a cage, a violation of their humanity and the equal protection under the law guaranteed by the Constitution.” RBG inspired, motivated, and fought for women to be freed from their cages. ShOur generations are lucky to have such a legendary woman live in our lifetime.

To some, Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death was the worst event of 2020. I have to agree. May her memory be a blessing and she live in our memories and our children's memories forever.

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