Woman of the Week | Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Our 'Woman of the Week' series celebrates the women of the past and present that epitomise The Unstated woman. Resilient, benevolent, progressive and inspirational, these women are pioneers of the modern age.
One of the most influential women (and people, with all genders inclusive) in politics, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has served as a figure of esteem and adulation for several generations. She is mostly recognised for her work as a justice associate at the Supreme Court of the United States, where she dedicated 27 years of her life fighting for equality for women and people of colour.
Born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15th 1933 in Brooklyn, New York to a mother of Polish Jewish descent and a Jewish father for Odessa, Ukraine (which was then part of the Soviet Union), Bader Ginsburg new up with the duality of a community and outsider, immigrant experience. Her family were part of a conservative Jewish synagogues and she attended Jewish summer camps, but studied it ethnically diverse New York public schools – notably James Madison High School, where U.S senators, Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer, and many writers, actors, athletes and musicians attended.
After graduating from high school, Ruth Bader Ginsburg went on to study a BA in Government at Cornell University, New York. While studying at Cornell, Bader Ginsburg met fellow student and her future husband, Martin D.Ginsburg; who Ruth expressed encouraged her career pursuits, rather than attempting to suppress them, which wasn't uncommon at the time. They had a mutual respect and admiration for each other's intellect. The pair married a month after Bader Ginsburg graduated. At 21, Ruth worked as her as a Social Security Administrator in Oklahoma, where she was demoted after becoming pregnant with her first child, Jane. A year later, Ruth Bader Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School – a male-dominated institution with only nine women in a class of 500 men – and eventually transferred to Columbia Law School when her husband took a job in New York City.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg excelled at Columbia Law School and became the first woman to be in two major law reviews (Harvard and Columbia). Though she gained a strong recommendation from her professor at Harvard, she was turned away from several posts at law firms due to sexist policies and protocol. Eventually she was offered a position as a law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In the years that followed Bader Ginsburg went on to work on many significant cases regarding equality before being nominated for the role of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 by then President, Bill Clinton. She was the second woman and first Jewish woman to be a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg swiftly became a prominent member of the political institution fighting for the rights of women and against gender discrimination throughout her career; with cases like United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. and Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. Her longevity within her career (working until her passing in September 2020 from pancreatic cancer) can be attributed to her resilience, work ethics and progressive perspective of life. She was a vocal supporter of contemporary movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter, becoming a cultural icon to millennials and younger generations.
The legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg will undoubtedly be enduring. With numerous books written about her – most notably 'Notorious RGB: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg' – and films about her – namely drama, 'On the Basis of Sex' and documentary, 'RGB' – she will continue to inspire future generations.