“She was an amazing woman — whether you agree or not — she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life.” It’s not the sort of eulogy one would expect from someone as combative as Donald J. Trump. And yet, those are the exact words collected members of the press heard from the president as he reflected upon the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
He’s not wrong. Though the 87-year-old was known as a liberal guardian on the highest court in the Land (or, at least, in America’s), big names from both ends of the political spectrum paid their respects to a woman who did the rest of the world a lot of good. That said, her legacy is so much more than a repurposed Notorious BIG T-shirt (as great as that is). And, while Justice Bader Ginsburg is deserving of all the ‘yas queen’ tweets, it helps to know why we’re shouting ‘yas queen’ in the first place. Look, even Trump thinks it’s pretty amazing.
But First: Who Was She? Born in Brooklyn 1933, a really smart young Jewish girl named Ruth Bader was encouraged into academia by a mother who saw her own scholastic trajectory cut short in favour of a brother, because brothers were more worthy of a college education, because Life. So, the daughter of a Russian and a barely first-generation Austrian-American went on to study government at Cornell University (a member school of the Ivy League, an elite consortium of American academic institutes) and became the top ranking female student of her class.
It was also at Cornell where Bader also met her lifetime partner, Martin D. Ginsburg, whom she married a month after graduation, and who fervently championed her career until his death in 2010. After giving birth to their first child in 1955, Bader Ginsburg was accepted into Harvard Law School as just one of nine women in a class of 500, and, upon an audience with the dean, was asked “how do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?” In a 2015 interview with The New York Times, Bader Ginsburg admitted that she was wholly embarrassed by the question. Then, she just proved that she was simply better than the men: in 1959, she finished her law degree at Columbia (another Ivy League school) and was joint first in her final exam.
RBG Was On The Frontline In The Fight For Equal Rights In the ongoing fight for true gender parity, many of the cause’s formative skirmishes were fought (and largely won) in the Seventies. Consider RBG one of its grand generals. As a co-founder of the Women's Rights Project, she recognised that gender discrimination was not a single beast: it was a swarm. As such, the young lawyer chose her cases strategically to score victories that not only built off one other, but also those that proved how gender discrimination hurt men too. That usually causes men to listen, especially in landmark cases like Weinberger v Wisenfeld, which found that widowers were denied the same Social Security child support that a widowed woman would receive. RBG was, once again, successful in arguing for equal rights.
Of six gender discrimination cases brought before the Supreme Court, RBG won five and thus earned added protections to women in various areas of everyday life. She ensured servicewomen enjoyed the same level of financial support as men in the military. She helped to end an Oklahoma law that set wildly different minimum drinking ages for men and women. And, she ensured that it was no longer ‘optional’ for women to serve on juries. A woman’s civic duties were to be just as important.
RBG Was The First Jewish Woman To Serve On The Supreme Court After 13 years as a senior judge, Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton in 1992. She was the first Jewish woman, and only the second woman ever, to earn a place on the most important judicial body in America. So if a case or law under the Constitution is elevated high enough, it’s presided and deliberated over by the Supreme Court. That can include anything from gay marriage, to abortion, to healthcare, to voting rights and every other issue in-between. What with the US being the most powerful country in the world, their rights can lead the way for rights around the world.
RBG Has Protected A Woman’s Right To Choose Time And Again In her hearing for the job on the Supreme Court, RBG made her beliefs clear: “It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decision maker that her choice be controlling. If you impose restraints that impede her choice, you are disadavantaging her because of her sex.”
Her views on Roe v Wade, the case often tied to abortion rights in the US, were mixed, though that was based upon a belief that there were better ways to enshrine pro-choice laws. Now RBG is gone, a conservative replacement nominated by Trump could overturn these protections, and see more places look like Ohio: a state the size of Jordan with a population of 11.6 million. It has just eight abortion clinics.
RBG Knew That Trump’s Administration Could Endanger Women’s Rights “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed”. According to a report by National Public Radio, these were some of the final words RBG dictated to her granddaughter before succumbing to pancreatic cancer, as she knew Trump’s administration would try force through a Supreme Court nominee to skew the conservative leaning of the body. For reference, Neil Gorsuch, the president’s first pick, was viewed with deep suspicion by liberals for siding with evangelical Christian sentiments: the sort of bakers that refuse to make cakes for gay weddings. And his second, Brett Kavanaugh, was alleged to have sexually assaulted several women, causing psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford to come forward and tearfully recount her ordeal in a public hearing before the world. This is the sort of administration we’re dealing with.
And despite RBG’s request, Trump’s team are already trying to push through their choice just 42 days before an election. Barack Obama was afforded no such luxury in picking a nominee 11 months before the 2016 election. It’s important, because, like Bader Ginsburg, a Supreme Court judge can serve a lifetime. They can spend it either protecting women and minorities, or dismantling civil rights to endanger them altogether.