By Jordan Siegel
A high school friend said she had a “certain magnetism that drew people to her.” Her camp counselor called her a “natural leader.” When she was a professor, a student described her as a “precise and thoughtful teacher, a naturally admired advocate, and an extraordinary role model.” President Bill Clinton spoke about her as “one of our nation’s best judges.” There is one person that is all of these things and more. She changed the path of women’s rights. She was strong, intelligent and inspiring. She was the second woman to ever become a Supreme Court justice. Her name was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Sadly, Justice Ginsburg passed away on September 18, 2020 at the age of 87. While it was a devastating loss, we should be taking this time to reflect on the amazing life RBG led and the legacy she left behind. Born in Brooklyn, Ginsburg was raised in a Jewish household. In high school, she played the cello and piano, twirled the baton in the marching band, and was in the Go-Getters’ Club, honor society and yearbook club. She graduated from Cornell University as the highest ranked woman in her class. She then attended Harvard Law School, transferred to Columbia Law School and tied for first in her class. Along the way, she dealt with her husband’s diagnosis of cancer, taking care of her child and with the gender discrimination that accompanies being one of the only women in a male-dominated field. And this was just the first 26 years of her life.
Whether she was working as a clerk for a U.S. District judge or being a Supreme Court justice, RBG never failed to leave her impact on both men and women’s daily lives. While working as a litigator with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project for the union, and as the director she fought six gender dicsrimation cases before the Supreme Court. Some of the people Ginsburg argued on behalf of were a man denied a tax deduction for hiring a caregiver because of his gender; a woman in the military whose husband couldn’t get an increased housing allowance, even though military wives received this benefit; and a widowed father denied survivor benefits. It’s clear that RBG’s primary focus was creating an equal playing field for men and women, and she did her best to eliminate laws partial towards a certain sex.
In 1993, Ginburg began her career on the Supreme Court where she spent the rest of her life continuing her fight for equality. She turned down policies that denied women equal protection and equal pay. She felt strongly about abortion, stating that, “The basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman.” Ginsburg had no inconsistencies in her beliefs because to her, no matter the situation, everybody is entitled to their natural rights.
Ginsburg’s legacy still resides in the American household. It’s far more common to find a woman as a primary breadwinner than it was 50 years ago. A woman can get a job without feeling worried that she won’t have access to the same benefits as her male coworkers, and men can become caregivers without being refused aid previously only available for women. Ginsburg’s lifelong dedication to equality created a safer atmosphere for people so that they didn’t have to conform to gender norms. Although America is far from a perfect society where gender discrimination doesn’t exist, we have only gotten this far in part thanks to the Notorious RBG.