#WCIW: Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Trailblazer. Women’s Equality Champion. Civil Rights Advocate.
The “Notorious RBG”, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 15, 1933 to Celia and Nathan Bader.
The family lived in a low-income, working class neighborhood, where her mother proved especially influential on her young life by sacrificing her own education and working long hours in a garment factory to help her brother attend university. Ruth would remember this selfless act for the rest of her life.
Her parents taught her to be independent and put great value on education, which Ruth took to heart and excelled in her studies. Although her mother passed away her Senior year, Ruth graduated and was accepted to Cornell University where she graduated in 1954 at the top of her class.
That same year she married law student, Martin D. Ginsburg, reflecting years later that “out of all the young men I dated, he was the only one who cared that I had a brain." Shortly after the arrival of their first child, Martin was drafted into the military and served for two years. Upon his return, Ruth promptly enrolled in Harvard Law School.
At Harvard, she was one of only nine women in her class, and not only thrived but became the first woman elected to the Harvard Law Review. Transferring to Columbia, she again excelled and graduated at the top of her class.
But high marks did not make her career path any easier. Upon graduating she found getting a job almost impossible as the majority of firms refused to hire women. Eventually, with the help of former Columbia professor, she secured a judicial clerkship in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1963 she was hired as a law professor at Rutgers University--which made her one of just twenty female law professors in the country at the time.
Throughout her career, Ruth continued to break down sexist barriers and initiate change in her profession with a stunning list of accomplishments, from becoming the first female law professor at Columbia to receive tenure to co-founding the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the U.S. to focus exclusively on women's rights.
She also co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU, and as its chief litigator briefed and argued several landmark cases in front of the Supreme Court. Ginsberg won many of those cases, which were pivotal in reducing gender discrimination in the law. Her victories and impeccable track record garnered much attention, and in 1980 President Carter appointed her to the US Court of Appeals for Washington DC. She served there until 1993, when President Clinton appointed her to the US Supreme Court.
On the Supreme Court, Ginsburg has played an essential role in many major decisions and brought a strong voice for women’s, worker’s, and LGBTQ rights, upholding the Affordable Care Act and legalizing same-sex marriage. In recognition of her contributions to gender equality and civil rights, she won the prestigious Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association in 1999.
For her trailblazing career, her courageous fight for women’s equality, and her indispensable role in the success of landmark civil rights cases, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is this week’s #WCIW.