Growing up, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother would always tell her to be a lady, and being a lady meant being your own person and being independent. If this is the definition of a lady, then it is exactly what Ginsburg grew up to be.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is an inspirational woman who defied all odds to help promote the idea of gender equality in the workplace, in the courtroom and in everyday society. To understand Ginsberg’s impact on the American society, I must first explain to you her early life and how it shaped her.
Ever since a young age, Ginsberg was always intelligent and strived to be the best person she could be. Due to her mother’s early death from cancer, Ginsberg made it her goal to go to college and get a degree, which is something her mother never had the opportunity to do.
Phil Schatz, vice president of the Federal Bar Association’s Southern District of New York Chapter, writes in the Phil Schatz, vice president of the Federal Bar Association’s Southern District of New York Chapter, writes in the Federal Lawyer’s May 2010 magazine’s May 2010 magazine that after graduating as valedictorian of her high school class, Ginsburg paved the way for future women lawyers by attending Harvard Law School as one of the nine women in a class of 500+ men.
During this class, Ginsburg faced a lot of sexism and discrimination from her male peers and professors. Ginsburg quotes in Schatz’s article that “every time you answered a question, you felt like you were answering for your entire sex.”
There was always a lot of pressure on these women, and Ginsburg felt it was her top priority to make a good first impression not only for herself but her entire gender. Not only was Ginsburg a woman, but she was Jewish and had two children while attending school.
Due to her husband’s health, Ginsburg decided to transfer to Columbia Law School, where she once again graduated at the top of her class. Despite this impressive achievement, Ginsburg had trouble finding a law firm to hire her because of her gender. In Schatz’s article, Ginsburg explains to him that “the traditional law firms were just beginning to turn around on hiring Jews…but to be a woman, a Jew, and a mother to boot—that combination was too much.”
Eventually, she was able to get a job at a less reputable law firm. Despite this obstacle, Ginsburg earned her way through multiple jobs up to the assistant professor at Rutgers’s School of Law.
The turning point of Ginsburg’s life was when she decided to act as a “co-counsel in briefing for the Supreme Court Case Reed v. Reed,” Schatz explains.
The Cornell Law School published on their website that in Reed v. Reed, a man in Idaho named Richard Reed had just died. His divorced parents Sally and Cecil Reed were both fighting to be the administer of Richard’s estate. The father Cecil was granted with this title because the Idaho law stated, “in choosing among persons equally entitled to administer a decedent’s estate, men must be preferred over women.”
Sally took this case to the Supreme Court, and Professor Ginsburg wrote a brief that convinced the Supreme Court to say this law was sexist and discriminatory. This began the domino effect of Ginsburg breaking down sexist laws.
Judge Kermit V. Lipez, a Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States’ First Circuit Court of Appeals, spoke to the Maine Bar Journal’s 2017 magazine that after this landmark case, Professor Ginsburg decided to create the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union or the WRP. As said by Lipez, the WRP “became the vehicle for her revolutionary work challenging gender discrimination.”
Ginsburg argued some major cases before the Supreme Court including the following:
1. In Frontiero v. Richardson, Ginsburg fought against the law that allowed male service members to get benefits for their spouses but denied female service members these benefits unless they could show that their spouses were dependent on them.
2. In Wienberger v. Wiesenfeld, Ginsburg made it so widowers along with their children are entitled to the same Social Security benefits as widows.
3. In Craig v. Boren, the law was overturned in Oklahoma that allowed women to buy alcohol when they were 18, but not men.
4. In Califano v. Goldfarb, Ginsburg allowed men to access social security if their wife dies.
5. In Duren v. Missouri, Ginsburg changed the law that said women could skip jury duty, but the men couldn’t.
As you can see, these persuasions led by Ginsburg were not all exclusively for the benefits of women. Ginsburg saw that in some cases, women were held “more highly” than men because of the centuries stereotypes imposed on women. As a result, Ginsburg decided to create an even playing field for both men and women so that everyone was treated fairly.
Lipez notes that in “1980, President Carter named Professor Ginsburg to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,” and in “1993, Justice Bryon White retired, and Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court.”
To this day, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to help make important decisions that affects the American people.
Some things that affected her decisions are her encounters with sexism and discrimination, as well as her upbringing. Justice Ginsburg’s life changed dramatically when she took up Reed v. Reed, and from then on, her life snowballed into fighting in and for the Supreme Court on laws that broke the 14th Amendment. Thanks to Justice Ginsburg, the playing field in America for all genders is more even. However, there are still some problems in society, and the world needs more people like Justice Ginsburg to stand up for what’s right and to make a difference in not only your life, but in the lives of others.