Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice and champion of gender equality Ruth Bader Ginsburg passes away

Photo by Supreme Court of the United States on Wikimedia.

4 minute read – By Safia Bartley

On 18th September, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer for equal rights in the U.S. and the second woman to serve as an associate on the Supreme Court, passed away from complications with pancreatic cancer. 

Starting her law career in 1954, she graduated first in her class at Cornell University at the age of eighteen. After this, she married and had a child with fellow law student Martin D. Ginsberg. They both then went on to continue studies at Harvard Law school. RBG juggled being both a mother and law student, while also facing misogynistic abuse for being one of nine females on a course of five hundred. Despite being bullied by the Law Schools Dean for “taking places of qualified males”, RBG did not get discouraged and excelled academically – even becoming the first female member of the prestigious legal journal, the Harvard Law Review. 

Sadly, in 1956, her husband Martin was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Despite being only 26 and left to care for her ill husband and young child, RBG powered on with her law studies and even took notes for her husband so he would not fall behind. Shortly after Martin graduated, the family transferred to New York and RBG enrolled in Colombia Law School, and once again graduated here first in her class. All throughout her incredibly successful academic career, RBG faced constant gender discrimination and saw no change when it came to seeking a job after her graduation in 1959. Because of this she found a new drive for gender equality and chose to direct her career towards it.  

After managing to get a job clerking for a U.S District Judge, she went back to Colombia Law and became the school’s first female professor. During the seventies she also served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Here she argued six landmark cases on gender equality pertaining to equality between pay, freedom of ownership, widow benefits and general rights before the Supreme Court. She won all cases. 

In 1980 President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia where she served for thirteen years. Later in 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated RBG to take a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court previously held by Byron White. Clinton chose her as he felt she had the intellect and political skills to deal with more conservative members of the court. RBG then became the court’s second ever female justice and first ever Jewish female Justice. Here as a judge she was considered a part of the court’s liberal bloc, using her position to advocate and pass laws for gender equality, the rights of workers, and importantly, the separation of the church and state. She continued to serve on the court throughout her cancer diagnosis in 2009 until her death in September 2020. 

RBG’s dying wish was that her replacement would not be nominated or confirmed until after the 2020 election. However, Trump has chosen to override her wishes and specifically asked Senate republicans to confirm his chosen candidate before then.  

His nomination is Amy Coney Barret, who he describes as “a woman of unparalleled achievement” with “towering intellect” and “unyielding loyalty to the constitution”. Although his candidate and confirmation date decision are being strongly protested by the President’s rival Biden and liberal members of the Supreme Court, it is still set to go ahead.  

At 43 years old, Amy Coney Barret will be the youngest person ever to be nominated for the Supreme Court. She is an extreme conservative, with strong Catholic faith. Supporting the relationship between church and state, she is pro-life, pro-gun-rights and supports the notion that those accused of sexual assault at a university or place of work deserve the right to sue the institution – no matter their conviction. 

It is a travesty to the U.S Justice and legal system that Trump’s new nominated candidate will be walking through all the doors RBG opened for her and promptly closing them for any women to follow.  

Nevertheless, it is undeniable that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is leaving behind a legacy never to be forgotten. Having had such an impact on the U.S. legal system, those after her will have big shoes to fill.  

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an inspiration to men and women everywhere, may she Rest In Peace.