Looking back at the journey to her Supreme Court confirmation, Ginsburg labels herself with three words that describe her perfectly.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a Harvard and Columbia Law educated Supreme Court justice who finished first in her class all the while being a wife and mother. Her experiences with sexism and gender discrimination developed her political stance.
Ginsburg had difficulty finding employment at the start of her legal career as a woman, mother, and Jew, even with excellent qualifications. She was denied a clerkship position because of her gender, despite a strong recommendation from a professor at Harvard Law School.
Ginsburg’s first position as a professor was at Rutgers School of Law in 1963, where she was told she would be paid less than her male colleagues because she was married to a man with a well-paying job. When she decided to pursue academia, Ginsburg was one out of less than twenty female law professors in the US.
As a professor at Rutgers School of Law and Columbia Law School, Ginsburg taught civil procedure. Most of Ginsburg’s legal career has been focused on advocating for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, partly due to her history facing sexism and gender discrimination.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, appointed by President Bill Clinton. Ginsburg took the oath of office in August of 1993, the second female justice to be confirmed to the court.
Considered to belong to the liberal wing of the court, Associate Justice Ginsburg has voted on the side of many progressive cases including United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc.
Ginsburg has been an active supporter of abortion rights, standing by women’s right to choose by saying “the basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman”. Often referred to as a “pop culture icon”, Ginsburg was also named one of 100 Most Powerful Women in 2009.
What’s Happening Now:
While looking back at her journey that lead her to the Supreme Court with Georgetown’s incoming law class at Associate, Justice Ruth Ginsburg was asked why she decided to preside over cases that involved women’s rights and gender equality.
Rephrasing the question, Ginsburg quipped “How did I decide to become a flaming feminist litigator?” She went on to describe herself as “a beneficiary of a big change in the times,” during the 60s as women began challenging gender roles.
Ginsburg looked back at times in her life at which she sought to overcome gender roles, including an instance where her daughter Jane’s kindergarten peers felt sorry for Ginsburg for having a job in the 60s.
By the 70s, when her son James was in school, having two working parents was nearly normalized.
“Once people’s lives changed, it was up to the law to catch up to those changes,” Ginsburg said of her time as a litigator.
The 84-year-old cultural icon said it was “exhilarating” to see a woman majority making up the incoming law class, Ginsburg recounted that she was among only nine other women in her Harvard Law class. There were few, if any, anti-discrimination laws during the early years of her career.
Ginsburg recognized that although women no longer confronted by “overt barriers”, they still face challenges that are harder to pinpoint. “What remains is harder to get at. That’s unconscious bias.”
Ginsburg delivered an empowering message to the incoming class, “The main difference is all the closed doors are now open. There is nothing that a woman can’t do in the law.”
H/T: The Hill