Debbie Almontaser

ruth bader ginsburg

Remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Voice of Every Woman

Ruth Bader Ginsberg was more than just an American icon: She was a global icon celebrated by many internationally 

Last week, TIME published an article highlighting her iconic judicial robe collars that span international fashion styles. Her love for fashion is one close to my heart as a woman who loves unique fashion styles and jewelry. 

TIME’s reporter, Tessa Berenson, was granted access to some of the late Justice’s favorite collars Ginsburg family with descriptions telling the story of each collar. 

Many of the collars have international manufacturing roots, which I found to be very interesting. Berenson also highlights the symbolic collars like this armor collar that RGB wore on days she dissented.

There is more to Ruth Bader Ginsburg than just her being a fashion icon, she was a badass woman before the term badass became a part of our descriptive vernacular.  Her childhood, schooling, and life experience shaped her to be one of the most visionary women of our time.

Ginsburg was born on March 15, 1933. She grew up on East 9th Street, in Midwood Brooklyn, just a mile away from where I live.. Her father was a merchant, and her mother worked in a garment factory. 

Taking after her mother, Ginsberg learned the value of education and independence from her mother. Unfortunately, her mother could not live to see her graduation or accomplishments in life later on. 

 While remembering her mother, RBG said, 

“I pray that I may be all that [my mother] would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve, and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”

Though RBG was grief-stricken, she made her way through James Madison High School and later went on to Cornell University.

At Cornell, RBG met her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg,  a lawyer who specialized in tax law. After her marriage and while attending Harvard, she juggled between her convalescing husband, the newfound role of a mother, and a law student. 

RBG was a staunch supporter of women’s equality from her early days and raised her voice against gender discrimination every time it crept its ugly head. She prided herself in advocating for the fair treatment of women at every turn. 

 In her words, 

 “ I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

Though RBG was a huge proponent for women’s rights, she believed that the law should be gender-blind.

One of the cases she won in the Supreme Court was the Social Security Act.  Prior to this act preferred women over men as it gave certain benefits to widows and not widowers. With her efforts, the world saw a change and accepted widowers as equals worthy of benefits. 

The Notorious RBG

After graduating from Cornell University, the couple saw challenging times. Her husband was enlisted and returned after service of two years. The couple then returned to  Harvard to study law. 

Ginsburg, while oscillating between new roles, faced a hostile environment at college.

There were only eight females in the class of more than 500 men.

The dean of the college castigated the women for occupying the seats of men who were more qualified and deserving. 

Erwin Griswold -the then dean of Harvard invited all the women to the dinner, and towards the end of the evening, he asked them to justify to him why they deserved a spot over a man. Ruth, while remembering the night, repeated his question,

“What were we doing taking a seat that could be occupied by a man?”      

RBG managed to make her own role in a society that was hostile towards progressive women. Despite facing discrimination at the university (and her workplace) she did not give up and continued to meet the challenges that came her way. 

In one of her public appearances, she said,

 “When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women judges on the U.S. Supreme Court bench] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

After graduating from Columbia Law School, she worked with ACLU’S Women’s Rights Project. Despite being a remarkable student and even after holding the first position at the law school, Ginsburg had to fight gender discrimination while seeking employment. 

Her favorite amendment was the 14th amendment. It stated: 

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States will be granted citizenship.” 

She kept fighting for these words her whole life. 

She did not give up on her dream and took a clerk position for the U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri (1959–61).

She also had the privilege of becoming the school’s first female tenured professor at Rutgers University Law School.                                                                            

Finally, making her way up the ladder of hierarchical structure, she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980. In 1993 she was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, making her the second woman to serve in the Supreme Court. 

From this point, RBG was on the unstoppable journey of bringing the stringent social issues to light and offering practical solutions. She continued to work for people’s rights.

In 2015, Ruth Ginsburg was a part of the historical decision that relieved many Americans. This was called the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

This act was designed to reduce the cost of health insurance for people who fell under the recommended income bracket. It was a massive win for President Barack Obama. 

The same year she won with the 5–4 majority ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the 50 states of the U.S. During the early proceedings of the case, she supported the idea openly and even presented arguments to support it. 

RBG – The Girl, Woman & Mother 

Ruth Ginsberg played cello and was a baton twirler. Like many of us, there were some areas she was not good at. She struggled with driving and surprisingly she failed the driving exam in her first five attempts. 

Moreover, she was not a good cook. In her husband’s words,

“Ruth is no longer permitted in the kitchen by the demand of our children who have tasted.”

In an interview, her son-James Ginsberg said,

“To this day, I still cannot eat swordfish after what she did to it.”

She did not live to see this, but as women and above all, as human beings, we can carry on with her message. Her life resonated with all of us on various levels.

We speak to those unheard stories of workplace discrimination.

We stand with those women who are marginalized within the boundaries of their home. We know you are there.

Ruth Ginsburg is the voice of every woman and every human who wants to have a fundamental right to equality. Let her efforts be known to the world. We can continue her legacy by taking steps towards a society that offers equal rights to every woman and man.

A society that supports the right to equal pay for both men and women who assume the same position in the workplace.

Ruth Ginsberg was a strong voice against the discrimination of women in any sphere of life. She herself faced it and knew exactly how it feels.

 Her following words promise a future of equality for women.

“ As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.”

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