Student. Second Generation Immigrant. Wife. Mother. Friend. Professor. Justice. Champion. Legend.
In 1933, a legend was born, a Polish legend derived from New York. She was born to make change. And unfortunately, this legend, this champion, left us just short of a week ago. Her name was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg was everything but ordinary. She went to Cornell University for her Bachelor’s degree. Following undergraduate school, she proceeded to law school at Harvard, then Columbia, graduating joint first of her class and receiving her Juris Doctor degree. She was also the highest ranked female in the class.
Following law school, she wanted to get a start on her life. She wanted to make a change.
Ginsburg noticed that in Sweden, gender inequality was not much of an issue whereas 25% of the law students there were women, which was incredibly higher than the U.S numbers.
This was her inspiration – the start of the rest of her career.
In 1960, she found difficulty finding a job. At that time she was denied employment by the U.S. Supreme Court because she was a woman. In 1963, she became a professor at Rutgers, and was visibly getting paid less than her male colleagues.
Ginsburg was one of fewer than 20 law women professors in the United States at that time. And at that time, women’s rights, beyond just voting, became her mission.
In 1970, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, which was the first law journal to focus exclusively on women’s rights. Just a decade later in 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals from the District of Columbia. She served this role until 1993 when she was appointed to be the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. This is where she started to make drastic, ever-lasting change.
Ginsburg was the second woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court as well as the first jewish person to ever serve.
As justice, she was a moderate judge and consensus builder on the liberal wing. These liberal views of the law are what drove her success. She had strong views on gender equality, women’s rights, and foreign and international law which she brought before the supreme court – and America was on her side.
She stood by same sex marriage, equal job opportunities and pay, and even the 2018 #MeToo movement.
The #MeToo movement was something that hit close to home for her. She had her own encounters with sexual assault which led her drive.
“It’s about time. For so long, women were silent, thinking there was nothing you could do about it. But now, the law is on the side of women or men, who encounter harassment and that’s a good thing,” Ginsburg stated.
Ginsburg was a strong and powerful woman who knew what was important and ran with it. She wouldn’t stop until she won. And she did. She won it all. She continued to fight for the rights of those who needed a voice and needed to be heard.
But in light of all that, here lies the problem.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know any of this until today. I didn’t know the name, didn’t know who she was, what she did, or the impact she made.
I had to Google and find the legacy she left on a crappy internet browser. Many of my friends did not know who she was either – let alone much of my generation didn’t know who she was until Sept. 18, the day she died.
This empowering woman fought for women’s rights, fought for same-sex marriage, fought for immigrants… and her legacy needs to be remembered better. She wasn’t in the history textbooks in history class, and wasn’t talked about in sociology class.
Let me ask this question, was her influence not enough? Did she not do enough? Or is it because she was a strong woman who finally took the stance and did what no one else was brave enough to do, and people feared that? It makes you wonder.
It couldn’t have been because people didn’t know who she was or what she did. My mother, a 58-year-old woman who was alive during Ginsburg’s era, knew who she was. Before Ginsburg, she couldn’t buy a car. She couldn’t have a leadership role. Being a woman was hard. And it’s still hard.
“Because of Ginsburg, I have been able to become a strong, independent woman, buy my own house, recieve my own loans, and be who I am without fear. Having an impact on American women: single women, women of color…that’s huge,” she stated.
Her impact and influence on women should not be underestimated and the knowledge of her impressions shouldn’t stop at my mother’s generation. Success shouldn’t be limited. Impressions shouldn’t be limited. Because Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a damn good impression and her successes were everything but limited.