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The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Iman Kagimu

Edited by Aleyna Doche

“We are at last beginning to relegate to the history books the idea of the token woman”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was known as a passionate and leading voice for all facing discrimination. She was a cultural and feminist icon to all. What she leaves behind is a political battle between the Democrats and Republicans over who will succeed her. Many wonder how can one person create such an uproar? Her story starts in Brooklyn, New York on March 15, 1933. Ruth Joan Bader was born to Nathan and Cecelia Bader in a Jewish, low-income and working class neighborhood. Her mother always taught her to be independent and to do well in school, however she sadly passed away the day before Ruth’s high school graduation, from James Madison High School.

Ruth graduated at the top of class from Cornell University with a BA in Government in 1954. She met her husband Martin Ginsburg at Cornell, and they got married before he was drafted shortly afterwards. They had their first child Jane in 1955 and in 1956 Martin was discharged and they attended Harvard together. During her first year at law school, she balanced taking care of Martin who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, being a first time mother, and being one of nine females in a classroom of 500. She was belittled by fellow students and even faculty, as they believed that she took a deserving man’s spot in the class. She eventually became the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. Martin graduated from Harvard and accepted a position in New York. Ruth transferred to Columbia Law School, and once again, was on Columbia Law Review. In 1959, she graduated at the top of her class.

Young Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Although she was qualified, the gender discrimination didn’t stop when she got her degree. She was able to obtain a position as a law clerk under U.S. District Judge Edmund. Palmieri with a recommendation from one of her professors. She clerked for two years and was offered positions at law firms, however, the salary was significantly lower than the male employees. In 1963, she accepted a position as a professor at Rutgers University Law School and then in 1972 she taught at Columbia. During the 1970’s, she became the director of the Women’s Right Project and argued multiple cases on gender equality to the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Jimmy Carter in 1980, appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She served for 13 years until 1993, when President Bill Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the court’s second female justice. She continued to fight for women’s rights as a Supreme Court Justice. In 1996, she wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia allowing women to be admitted to Virginia Military Institute. She was the front runner and ultimately ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in 2015, in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. Her famous dissenting opinion occurred in the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 2007. In the case, Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer when she discovered that the company was paying her less than her fellow male employees. She argued that it was due to her gender, as a female which violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, Goodyear then argued that in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination complaints needed to be filed within 180 days of the violation, Ledbetter filed her complain after 19 years of working, so the Supreme Court agreed with Goodyear. Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion, explaining that she couldn’t have filed her complaint in 180 days because she never knew she was being discriminated against. Once President Barack Obama became Commander- in Chief in 2009, he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Then in 2015, in the case of King v Burwell, she voted that the government can provide subsidies to Americans who buy healthcare through “exchanges”, no matter if it is federally or state operated. This made it difficult for Obama’s Affordable Care Act to be changed.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, not only fought for women's rights but additionally all types of minority groups as well as for men’s rights. Throughout her career as a Supreme Court Justice, she suffered health issues and had surgery for pancreatic, lung and colon cancer. She never missed court even when she went through chemotherapy and mourned the loss of her husband Martin in 2010. Justice Ginsburg is an icon to all and a force to be reckoned with. She recently passed away on September 18, 2020 in her home from complications from pancreatic cancer. She is a hero, who will never be forgotten.

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