In Memoriam: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Photographer: Steve Petteway (Wkimedia Commons)

by Cindy Parker

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court died Friday evening, September 18, 2020. She was a particular hero of mine, and an inspiration to women and men everywhere. Gender discrimination pushed her into teaching law at Rutgers University and Columbia and volunteering with the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, devoting much of her time fighting for women’s rights and gender equality. Although Ruth was advised against this focus, we can all be thankful she persisted. “The concern was that if a woman was doing gender equality, her chances of making it to tenure in the law school were diminished,” she told the New York Times’ Philip Galanes in 2015. “It was considered frivolous.” She co-founded the Women’s Rights at the ACLU and became its general counsel. Ruth led a strategic battle for women’s rights, one step at a time, preferring to take cases that would set firm legal precedent.

RBG argued six cases before the United States Supreme Court and won five of them.  The 14th Amendment does not allow laws that deny equal protection to persons. Under this Equal Protection Clause she worked to strike down laws that treated women differently from men, and vice versa. Ruth maintained that laws that “protected” women, such as making jury duty optional, diminished them by the very idea that women needed protection and men do not.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the US Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit in 1980 where she served until 1993 when President Bill Clinton nominated her, and she was confirmed to the US Supreme Court. Over her Supreme career she was known for reading her dissent opinions from the bench when she felt very strongly about the subjects. And Ruth was famous for her many collars that she wore over her robes, especially the one she wore when delivering her dissent speeches. This collar was the model for the earrings we gave to our outgoing president, Wendy Cook.

In this year of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment recognizing women’s right to vote, it has become clear to me that the best way to celebrate this milestone and honor those who worked so hard to achieve it is to continue the fight for all women’s rights. RBG was a great fighter. She said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” It was discouraging and sad and scary to learn of her death this weekend. But we need to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg by continuing the fight.