Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a cultural, feminist and legal icon. Ginsburg served for 27 years on the highest court, opens a new window in the United States and was a champion for gender equality and women’s rights. She passed away on Friday, September 18. She was 87 years old.
Joan Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933. After completing her undergraduate degree at Cornell University, she married Martin (Marty) Ginsburg, opens a new window and gave birth to their daughter, Jane. When Ginsburg began law school at Harvard Law in 1956, she was one of only nine women in a class of more than 500. The dean asked her, along with the other eight women, why she was there taking up a place that "should go to a man." When Marty got a job in New York City, Ginsburg transferred to Colombia Law School, where she went on to graduate tied for first in her class.
Ginsburg had difficulty finding employment after graduating due to her gender. With the the fervent support of her mentor, Gerald Gunther, opens a new window, Ginsburg secured a clerkship in New York after Gunther promised Judge Edmund Palmieri, opens a new window that if Ginsburg couldn't adequately perform the work required, he would find a replacement. Ginsburg clerked for Palmieri for two years.
Ginsburg's legal fights for gender equality began in the 1970s, and she continued to fight for equality for both genders throughout her career—in education, jobs and benefits. Antonin Scalia, later Ginsburg’s colleague on the Supreme Court, said, "She became the leading (and very successful) litigator on behalf of women's rights.”
Ginsburg was nominated to the Supreme Court by then-President Bill Clinton in 1993. While serving on the court, she was part of the “liberal wing” of the court, where she continued to champion equality and feminist issues.
Ginsburg was a passionate lover of opera, rode horses well into her seventies and even went parasailing from time to time. She grew into a pop cultural icon after Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement left Ginsburg as the only woman on the Supreme Court. As she continued her well-thought-out and often vocal dissents, a law student styled her “Notorious R.B.G.” after the late rapper Notorious B.I.G., and her relevance only rose from there. She has inspired operas, books, t-shirts, documentaries and movies. She remarked that she had quite a large supply of Notorious R.B.G. shirts, which she gave out as gifts.
Her Legacy is a Blessing
Ginsburg died on Rosh Hashanah. Per Jewish tradition, a person who has died on Rosh Hashanah is named a Tzaddik (male) or Tzaddeket (female): a truly righteous person. Not just a kind person, but a person who fought for equality and who worked faithfully to bring down unjust barriers in all parts of life.
In Judaism, when someone dies, one says, “May their memory be a blessing.” This does not necessarily mean that we are to simply remember them fondly, but that we should strive to be more like them and to move forward the good work they have done. In saying, “May her memory be a blessing,” what is meant is that we should be more like Ruth Bader Ginsburg: righteous, thoughtful, and furthering a more just and equitable world for all.
May her memory be a blessing.
Discover More on Ginsburg
Titles for Youth and Family
This beautifully illustrated children's book begins with the childhood of Ruth Bader. The book follows her life path, including her professional achievements and contributions to American law alongside her personal life.
Want to know just exactly how Ruth Bader Gisnberg changed American law? Check out these fascinating interpreted accounts of the real cases she worked throughout her storied legal career.
This children's book highlights 50 incredible women who have made a powerful impact in American politics. From Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Fannie Lou Hamer to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, their accomplishments and stories hope to inspire the next generation that will continue leading the way for all of us.
With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Penelope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.
Learn about a landmark case in civil rights that occured before Brown vs. Board of Education. Children will love reading this story of a young feminist civil rights activist, Sylvia Mendez and her struggle to have equal access to education despite the color of her skin.
Titles for Adults
Offers a collection of engaging, serious, and playful writings and speeches from the Supreme Court justice on topics ranging from gender equality and the workings of the Court to Judaism and the value of looking beyond U.S. shores when interpreting the Constitution.
An informal portrait of Justice Ginsburg, drawing on a series of her conversations with Rosen, starting in the 1990s and continuing through the Trump era. Rosen, a veteran legal journalist, scholar, and president of the National Constitution Center, shares with readers the justice's observations on a variety of topics, and her intellect, compassion, sense of humor, and humanity shine through.
We use data to inform every decision we make in the modern world. It is vital and can be life-saving or fatal in some cases. And yet, there is data bias favoring men in almost every industry on the planet. This book is intense. There are a lot of numbers. I'm not going to lie. It will make you mad. It will make you want to through the book against the wall. But it will also make you want to do something about it. To share these facts with friends. To demand change. As RBG once said, ""Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.""Thank you for being such an inspiring leader, RBG."
She Caused a Riot is an empowering, no-holds-barred look into the epic adventures and dangerous exploits of 100 inspiring women who were too brave, too brilliant, too unconventional, too political, too poor, not ladylike enough and not white enough to be recognized by their contemporaries. From 3rd-century Syrian queen Zenobia to 20th-century Nigerian women's rights activist Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, these are women who will inspire a courageous new movement of women to do the same.
The exceptional life and career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon.