The Notorious R.B.G
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an inspirational Jewish woman who championed gender equality throughout her career. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York and quickly proved her intelligence and passion for social justice. One of nine women in a class of 500 at Harvard Law School, Ruth was asked to justify her position for taking a man’s spot. After an incredibly eventful time in law school with caring for her husband who was diagnosed with cancer and their three year old daughter, Ruth graduated top of her class at Columbia where she had transferred. Ruth was recommended time and time again after finishing law school for a Supreme Court clerkship but was not given an interview because she was a woman.
In 1971 during her time as a lawyer, Ruth wrote a brief to the Supreme Court for a case that she was working on. This case, Reed vs. Reed debated the preference of men over women to be executors of estates and with the brief that Ruth wrote, the Supreme Court voted no on a state law because of its discrimination on the basis of sex. This was the first time that the Supreme Court had ever ruled a state law unlawful on the basis of sex and Ruth’s brief caused a great deal of laws around the United States to be reevaluated because of discrimination.
Throughout the 1970s Ruth served as the director of the Women’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1993, Ruth was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton and although many worried about her transition from a social advocate to a Supreme Court justice, Ruth garnered a position with a vote of 96-3 by the Senate.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s famous words “I dissent” represented a deviation from the tradition of “respectfully” disagreeing and with those words she showed her strength and dedication. Ruth was not a woman to back down from those who challenged her and as the second woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, she made a lasting mark in history.
What Ruth Bader Ginsberg Means to Me…
Many members of Feminist Book Club were inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her dedication to gender equality. We asked members to reflect on the impact of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and this is what they had to say.
“RBG inspires me as a citizen to approach the way I move through the world radically. With radical compassion, we can imagine a future that is radically different than our current reality… She reminds me to not waste my time being Betty, but to channel my energy into making this effort as accessible as possible and to invite others into the conversation.”
”I learned about her and Sandra Day O’Connor and some other guy and was blown away by the tenacity she had. It was almost like Newton’s Laws of Physics, she was an immovable force who when asked to move said, ‘no, I’m good here.’ I think she leaves behind great work on equality of the sexes… she is not 100% unproblematic… but I am sad today because the US judicial system lost a behemoth of a jurist.”
“RBG was not perfect but she was a trailblazer. She championed women’s rights in her career but also by her very existence as a woman lawyer at a time where they were few and far between. She used her position of power to advocate for those that were not allowed in the rooms she occupied and levered her position to advance the rights of so many. She was a true powerhouse ahead of her time and I have no doubt she will continue to inspire generations.”
~Renee P., FBC Founder
“I’m British, so RBG is not an institution there. But I took myself to see On the Basis of Sex when it came out… it was the first time I had taken myself out to a movie and it was great. The movie was brilliant and it kickstarted my love for RBG.”
“I first learned about RBG in a description of a photo in my history textbook, you know in one of those side boxes dedicated to anyone or anything not about white men. Then in college in a women’s studies class, we talked about RBG more in depth… but I still felt she was relegated to a separate space than the mainstream. This is indicative of a culture in which women are not part of the story but a side note, often erased from core curricula, conversations, and policy.”
Our members recognize that like all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had her faults, but she was a pioneer for women to take up space in a time when they were not allowed to. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be remembered for the time to come as an inspiration to continue our fight for gender equality and to give space and voices to those who may not have the opportunity to do so. In Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s memory, we must advocate for equality for all and continue our work no matter the obstacles.
To Continue Learning About Ruth Bader Ginsburg
There are a wealth of resources available to learn more about the infamous Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her impact on the United States. Below are a collection of resources to learn more through books, documentaries, and movies.
1. My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
This book is a collection of RBG’s speeches and writings collected by the powerhouse herself. Throughout this book RBG shares her story of how she came to be and reflects on her time on the Supreme Court.
2. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
This book examines the effect Ruth Bader Ginsburg on popular culture and her portrayal in the media.
3. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy
A picture book to share with those young and old about Ruth’s life that teaches those that disagreeing and using your voice is something to be proud of.
4. Documentary: RBG
Nominated for best documentary at the Oscar’s in 2019, RBG is a documentary that tells the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and rise to popularity.
5. Movie: On the Basis of Sex
A theatrical movie that shares RBG’s upbringing and the events that led up to Ruth’s notorious case that determined discrimination of the basis of sex unlawful.