“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet from off our necks, and allow us to stand upright.”
The year is 1933: And in the bustling burrow of Brooklyn New York, new parents, Nathan and Cecelia held their daughter Joan Ginsberg. Unbeknownst to her parents, Joan, who would later go by Ruth, would become the second woman ever elected to the Supreme Court, an American pioneer who would pave the way for women in law, and a leader in and out of the courthouse.
According to the ACLU’s legacy article, Ruth Bader Ginsberg
was born into the middle class Bader family. Largely inspired by her mother, Celia, Ruth began her life with installments of independence and work ethic taught to her by her mother. "My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent,” Ruth recalls. Education was a top priority, and Ruth excelled from highschool to her years at Cornell and beyond.
Despite her fame in feminism and law, Ginsberg did not enter college with wishes to challenge the way women were treated in society. Initially, it was simply because she thought she could be a good lawyer. A government major at Cornell, she applied to Harvard law "for personal, selfish reasons. I thought I could do a lawyer's job better than any other. I have no talent in the arts, but I do write fairly well and analyze problems clearly." Ginsberg thrived at Harvard, becoming the first woman on the prestigious Harvard Law Review. According to fellow student and friend of Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, the opportunity to be on the review was one of both extreme respect, and rarity. “To be on the Harvard Law Review in those days, you needed to be in the top 25 academically.”
However, Harvard was not all success and fairness.
During her time at school in 1956, Ginsberg faced discrimnation from even the highest officials at school: the Dean telling her and her nine fellow female peers that they were taking spots from promising male students, even going so far as to confront the young female students with questions as to why they deserved the spots. According to WatchMojo, Ginsberg stated, “you felt you were constantly on display,” she says, “so if you were called on in class, you felt that if you didn’t perform well, you were failing, not only for yourself, but for all the women.”
Ginsberg recalls being invited, along with the other nine female students, to dinner with the dean. Dean Erwin Griswold then asked them to stand, and recite their reasons as to why they did deserve to be there.
“He asked each of us to stand up, and tell him what we were doing taking a seat that could be occupied by a man…” Ginsberg stated.
This was not the only struggle Ginsberg endured during her time at Harvard Law. Ginsburg’s husband, Marty Ginsberg
, was diagnosed with cancer. Both Harvard students, Ginsberg balanced her own courses, while taking notes in his. Between all of this, she continued to raise and care for their young daughter, stating, “I got around two hours of sleep a night.”
“He was the first boy I ever knew who cared I had a brain,” Ginsberg says fondly, remembering her late husband, Marty. Ruth and Marty, both aspiring lawyers, met whilst getting their undergrad at Cornell. According to Biography.com
, Marty, a clown of a sophomore was looking to date a cute freshman. His friends set him up with quiet, meticulous, and thinking Ruth Ginsberg. Both students originated from Brooklyn, shared a strong Jewish faith, and observed the world around them through analytical eyes.
Marty would recover from cancer, and receive a job offer in New York city at a law firm. This opportunity brought their family to the big apple and Ginsburg to Columbia Law to finish her degree.
Ginsburg would struggle to find work as a law firm, and would teach at Rutgers Law School in 1963, until accepting tenure at Columbia University Law School in 1972, the first woman to do so.
According to Oyez
, Ginsburg would also lead and direct the influential Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. Through this position, Ginsburg would argue multiple landmark cases; fighting against laws that discriminated on the basis of sex, this included both men and women.
Ginsburg began her career as a well known justice similar to her life as an advocate; continuing to fight against discrimination, stating, “Women's rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy."
Ginsburg is noted for attacking very specific areas of discrimination, rather than broad areas. Through her meticulous analyzation, careful thought process, and powerful messages, she is often able to convey a point of both intelligence and power. She believes that major social change should come from Congress, and only have guidance from the courts. Ginsburg was apart of major court cases involving the discrimination on the basis of sex. She was the second woman ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, taking a liberal side on the bench.
Ruth Ginsberg is not only an American Justice, but a woman of admirable strength, dignity, and determination. Despite being the oldest on the bench, RBG works out with a personal trainer, visits the opera house regularly, and continues to argue cases advocating for the rights of all Americans.