Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Her Life and Legacy

On March 15th, 1933, Celia Bader gave birth to a young girl, who she and her husband, Nathan Bader, named Ruth. For the next 87 years, the girl, now known as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, would continually write history with each day she spent in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Born in Brooklyn to a low-income, working-class family, Bader Ginsburg quickly learned the value of hard work, independence, and most importantly: a good education. After graduating from James Madison High School, she would go on to attend Cornell University. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1954, she met and married her husband, a law student named Martin Ginsburg. For her law degree, Bader Ginsburg attended the Harvard School of Law and was one of eight female students in a class of five hundred. This event in her life can be seen as the start of her resilient attitude in times of hardship, as her dean often criticized her for taking the position of a male student. Ginsburg, however, excelled at her studies and went on to become the first female member of the highly prestigious Harvard Law Review, acting as an editor of the journal.


Although Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an excellent student with a highly sought-after talent for legal work, she faced discrimination even after graduating from university. Her position as a female lawyer meant that she was often considered worse than her male counterparts due to her gender. This was not an issue she silently accepted. In 1972, Bader Ginsburg founded the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought to empower women of colour, poor women, and immigrant women through litigation. Issues fought against include violence against women, criminal justice, and education.


One of the landmark moments in the lawyer’s life came in 1993 when she was appointed as one of nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices after serving for thirteen years in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Appointed by President Bill Clinton, Bader Ginsburg used her position to promote gender equality, worker’s rights, as well as the separation of church and state. Considered to be one of the moderate-liberal judges in the court, Bader Ginsburg was an active voice for equality in a position that allowed for historical changes to the U.S. legal system.


Only three years after accepting her position in the Supreme Court of the U.S., the new Justice heard her most famous case, the United States v. Virginia. In this hearing, the United States argued against the remaining all-male college in the country, stating that the admissions process contradicted the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment. Bader Ginsburg played an active part, writing for the majority regarding the case. It was won, and the Justice was awarded the American Barr Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award for her efforts.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought within the Supreme Court until the end, with her death on September 18th, 2020, preceding her retirement from the court. Her legacy has not only left her as a famous historical figure within the US, as well as the world but also as a celebrity. She was known for her interaction with famous figures, such as Jennifer Lopez and Kate McKinnon, and her dedication to remaining visible to the world as a person, not a Justice hiding behind the walls of the Supreme Court.


The impacts of the Supreme Court Justice, or popularly known as the “Notorious R.B.G.” can be seen throughout the daily lives of all students, including Canadians, even though it may seem hidden from view at first. One of the most notable impacts Bader Ginsburg was able to carry on in her legacy was her straightforward, and down-to-earth view of policies. While many other Justices throughout history made speeches that would be difficult to understand if one was not aware of the legal jargon, Bader Ginsburg made sure that what she said was as easily comprehensible to a blue-collar worker as it was to legal professors. Most likely due to her humble upbringing, the Justice kept her phrases short, yet substantial, and made sure that she could be understood by the majority she represented. She re-phrased difficult cases in ways that allowed the general public to follow them and be involved and thereby brought forth a movement in which people were able to be active in a process that directly affected them in the long run.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s biggest mark on the history of the United States, and the history of the world, however, is her impact on gender equality. She was one of the few Justices who actively fought for women’s rights and also promoted a societal shift when it came to a woman’s duties in the household. After her 70s campaigns for gender equality, she empowered the stereotypical housewives to take up a more prominent role in the household and allowed them to have the power to seek work to further support their families. Instead of relying on husband paychecks, women were now able to bring income into the house, and therefore fewer households relied on social security. In a sense, Ginsburg’s efforts that were previously seen as radical and uncalled for not only helped promote social justice but further supported the country she served. In Canada as well as other countries, women following their role models in the South also took up jobs, so Justice’s impact not only helped changed the lives and careers of women in the US but around the globe.


After all her efforts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not only given numerous physical awards, such as the Genesis Lifetime Achievement but was also able to add to her lifetime resume the work she did to help marginalized groups. This can be considered her greatest achievement, especially as a worker in the legal field, since she was able to utilize her powerful position for the greater good and demonstrated immense dedication to her virtues. Using her rulings, Ginsburg changed American and global societies for the better and opened a new chapter in history for all those wishing to follow in her footsteps.


Written by Soniya Tagirova-Sirotkina

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