By Ava Aschettino
On Friday, September 18th, the world lost a judicial giant. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known to many as “The Notorious RBG,” passed away at the age of eighty-seven.
Justice Ginsburg passed away at her home in Washington D.C. due to complications with metastatic pancreatic cancer. Her family was at her side.
Ginsburg was the second female justice ever appointed to the Supreme Court, serving twenty-seven years on the bench. She was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, replacing Justice David S. Tatel. Although she was not the first female appointed to the Court (the first was Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981), she was the first female Justice to pass away. The late Justice also made history by becoming the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state at the State Capitol in Washington D.C. She was later laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a household name by defying expectations and defending the “underdog.” Ginsburg defied societal expectations with her academic and career accomplishments.
After graduating from Cornell University, which she attended on a scholarship, Ginsburg attended Harvard Law School. She was at the top of her class and was one of only nine women in a class of 552. Following her husband to New York City, she transferred from Harvard to Columbia University in her final year, graduating at the top of her class.
Despite defying gender stereotypes in law school and graduating at the top of her class, she received no job offers from any New York City law firms.
Rutgers Law School eventually offered Ginsburg a teaching position, and she became only the second female faculty member on staff.
In 1972 she left Rutgers to teach at Columbia while at the same time becoming the American Civil Liberties Union’s first director, leading the charge of the Women’s Rights Project. In 1980, Ginsburg was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The dedication and attention to detail that she put into her work caught the attention of President Bill Clinton after Supreme Court Justice David S. Tatel’s retirement, and the rest is history.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruled over many famous cases throughout her twenty-seven year tenure on the nation’s highest court. For example, Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage and licsening. Ginsburg was a part of the monumental 5-4 vote. Additionally, in United States v. Virginia, the Court ruled that the Virginia Military Institute could no longer exclude women from admission. And just as famous as her rulings on these cases were her powerful dissents.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her later years, became a pop culture icon to many. Her supporters dubbed the nickname “Notorious RBG,” a play on the name of rapper “Notorious BIG,” who also hailed from Brooklyn. Children and adults alike dressed up as the Justice for Halloween, and supporters regularly sported “RBG” merchandise. The movie On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones and inspired by the Justice’s life, was a boxoffice hit. Numerous books were published about Ginsburg’s life, and actress Kate McKinnion portrayed her regularly on Saturday Night Live. The Supreme Court Justice, standing tall at 5’1’’and a mere 100 lbs, became a symbol of progress and equality to millions.
The loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is heartbreaking. She was not only a liberal hero, but an American hero. Her stance on equality and justice on the Court influenced the lives of countless Americans. She was driven by her morals and fought for what was right. May her legacy live on knowing that she helped the lives of millions. Rest in power, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.