Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Her Life and Legacy
Her voice in court and in our conference room was soft, but when she spoke, people listened.
—Chief Justice John Roberts
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female Supreme Court Justice, died on Friday, September 18, shocking the nation and opening the door for a partisan fight over the Supreme Court less than two months before the 2020 election. Ginsburg fought tirelessly for gender equality, becoming a popular feminist and cultural icon for many young women across America.
Despite graduating as top of her class from Columbia Law School, Ginsburg struggled to find a job: law firms refused to hire women, especially mothers, out of fear that she would prioritize her family.* This discrimination ignited her fight for gender equality, leading to her partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Ginsburg was innovative. She began choosing to represent male plaintiffs to argue before the all-male Supreme Court, successfully arguing that gender discrimination harms both women and men. Her clever and nuanced understanding of the court allowed her to win five of the six Supreme Court cases she argued.
As Ginsburg puts it, “The words of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause — 'nor shall any state deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.' Well that word, 'any person,' covers women as well as men.”
Ultimately, her indefatigable work ethic is what shined. While balancing her family life with her work, she gained notoriety and was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court after being nominated by Bill Clinton in 1993. As the court grew more conservative, her relentless push for equality continued, as did her dissensions. Even after her passing, Ginsburg continues to make history as the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. capitol.
Photo by Rachel Cobb
Parker Reacts: RBG’s Passing
Ginsburg’s passing brings a monumental shift in American politics. Even if she was nearly 5,000 miles away, students and teachers at Parker mourn her loss, illustrating the appreciation members of our community have for her work.
“When I heard that RBG had died, I experienced a mixture of disbelief, sadness, and profound gratitude for her life. Despite her age and repeated health challenges, she seemed somehow impervious to everything. She had overcome so much on the way to helping so many. I wanted to believe she'd be around forever. I'll always be grateful for her contributions and for her example.”
“I just think [her death] was so sad [because] she was such a great activist for women and women’s rights.”
“At first, I didn’t realize the greater implications to her passing. I only thought of how tragic her death was, but then I remembered who our president is. RBG's fight for gender equality increased the possibilities for women in education and the workforce and inspired our whole generation. Her work is truly inspiring to me starting from her beginnings in the ACLU. Her passion and drive to fight inspires me to advocate for those unfortunate because she has done that her whole life for people like me and countless others.”
— Hana-Lei Ji, 12th grade
“Her passing is an incalculable loss, one that will continually be magnified while looking through the lens of history. I once had the pleasure of seeing her – albeit from a distance. She was a very small woman, so to me it seems both paradoxical and heartening that generations will stand on her shoulders, enjoying equal protection that she so skillfully forced men on the court to guarantee.”
“Heartbroken, devastated, what a huge loss for humanity. I hope with every fiber of my being that humanity will rise up and embrace her ideas of doing what is right, what is fair, and what is equitable.”
“I was deeply saddened to learn of RGB's passing. She was an inspiration for everyone who believes in feminism, respect for the law, tenacity, and strength of will. Her work and her legacy are reminders that we must always lend our voices to the struggle against injustice and discrimination, and that there is no place for silence in the face of either.”
“She inspired me. I fear I won’t be able to get an abortion or long-term birth control without her.”
—Mele Rickards, 12th grade
“I’m absolutely devastated. RBG was appointed in August of 1993 — less than two weeks after I was born— and was only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court in 231 years. Her decisions and dissents reveal her legendary empathy and fierceness—she fought for the rights of women and disabled folks, worked to prevent climate change, and was a relentless champion for gender equality and justice throughout her incredible career. She fought so hard for us. She defied stereotypes and had a wonderful sense of humor about her job and herself. Her legacy will be remembered and celebrated forever, and her absence on the Supreme Court is a massive loss for our country.”