Historical Women

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Feminist Hero

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18th – an enormous loss, and she will be mourned globally.

A candlelit makeshift memorial on the steps of the US Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo Credit: Ben J

Justice Ginsburg was a fearless feminist and has made monumental contributions to the feminism movement–and its fight against gender-based discrimination.

Ginsburg was known for her scholarly, balanced opinions and personal courage.  She spent her entire career working to eliminate gender-based stereotyping in legislation and regulations.

To honor her, we’ll share a few of her many accomplishments and contributions to society, and why she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

School and Early Career

Ginsburg was one of nine women accepted to Harvard Law School (out of a class of 500), where the school’s dean asked the female students to explain how they could justify taking the place of a man in his school.

Despite her impressive credentials at graduation, including making Law Review and graduating at the top of her class, she had difficulty finding a job in the male-dominated legal profession.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Senate confirmation hearing for her appointment to the Supreme Court. Photo Credit R. Michael Jenkins

Early in her career, she was a law professor, becoming the first woman to earn tenure at Columbia University School of Law.

She worked on an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) case involving the discrimination against women ultimately helping strike down a state law that favored men over women as estate administrators. This marked the first time the Supreme Court struck down a law because of gender-based discrimination. (Reed v Reed)

In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

She was soon their general council, launching a series of gender discrimination cases, winning five of six cases brought before the Supreme Court.

Her approach was cautious and strategic, favoring incrementalism – dismantling sexist laws and policies one-by-one, as opposed to the risk of losing by asking the Supreme Court to outlaw all discriminatory rules at once.

US Supreme Court

She was the second woman ever confirmed to the US Supreme Court. 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
receives the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award.
Jay Godwin / Public domain

During her 27 years on that bench, she quickly emerged as a fearless champion of progressive causes, serving as a counterbalance to the court, which in recent years slanted in favor of conservative justices.

Her dissents were forceful, but Ginsburg didn’t shy away from criticizing the opinions of her colleagues.

Her life was the subject of the excellent 2018 film, On the Basis of Sex. One review stated that the movie “is nowhere near as groundbreaking as its real-life subject, but her extraordinary life makes a solid case for itself as an inspirational, well-acted biopic.”

Ms. Ginsburg was an amazing trailblazer who will be remembered for generations to come as someone who changed the world for the better, who fought for equality and fairness, who left a glorious mark upon America which can never be erased.

Her spirit is captured in her words: Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.