By Sophia Alexandrou
On September 18, 2020, the United States lost one of its most influential figures in modern day politics. Nicknamed “Notorious RBG,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1993, becoming the second woman in United States history to do so. She was a trailblazer of women’s rights and gave her life upholding the laws of this country. She opened doors for women that people of her era could only dream about. To say she played a big role in the advancement of equal rights in this country would be an understatement. Her legacy will continue to inspire future generations of young female voices.
Long before her career led her to the highest court in the country, Ginsburg attended undergrad at Cornell University, where she graduated at the top of her class in 1954. Shortly after, she attended Harvard Law School, where she was frequently chastised for “taking the place of a man.” In her last year of law school, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School to serve on the Harvard Law Review, located in New York City.
During her time as a civil rights lawyer, Ginsburg worked as Chief Architect against sex-role stereotyping at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. During her time litigating, she won five Supreme Court cases that advanced gender equality and eliminated a number of laws that treated men and women differently.
In 1993, when she was finally appointed to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was an essential figure in many cases that shaped the United States. Most notably is United States v. Virginia, where Virginia Military Institute’s practice of not accepting women on the basis of their gender was deemed unconstitutional. In addition, her majority opinion on Ledbetter v. Goodyear ruled that pay inequality between men and women on the basis of a technicality was unconstitutional, inspiring equal pay legislation to be signed and passed under the Obama administration.
She had always been a champion for reproductive rights in the United States. Holding the majority opinion, in the case of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court shut town Texas legislation that would close most of the abortion clinics in the state using medically unnecessary restrictions. In Stenberg v. Carhart, she was part of the deciding majority that voted that any law designed to hinder a woman’s right to receive an abortion was unconstitutional.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a part of some of the most important Supreme Court cases in modern day United States history, through both her litigating and judging. However, one of the main reasons why she is so inspiring is her resilience.
Since before her career even started, she was underestimated and challenged because of her gender. She never failed to prove wrong those who were against her success; she rose to the top every time. She never let her setbacks or lost cases interrupt her constant fight for social justice saying, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
In the remaining years of both her life and her career, Ginsburg gave every last thing she had in ensuring the safety and prosperity of this country. Given the current administration, she knew that retiring her seat would mean replacement by someone who would not fight for the civil liberties to which she dedicated her life, so she remained committed to staying alive for that seat. In her remaining months, she worked with a personal trainer to maintain her health.
So, what does her death mean for the Supreme Court? On September 26, 2020, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Justice Ginsburg. Many people are concerned with this decision, however, because of the radical difference in views between the two women. Judge Barrett is strongly in support of the pro-life movement and would threaten the famous Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade. Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court would mean the jeopardization of abortion rights in this country, among other social issues, and would shift the majority in the court to conservative judges.
Whatever happens to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, she will always be remembered as a resilient pioneer for gender equality and a feminist icon. Her hard work, articulate speech, and all-around inspiring story has made her an unexpected icon for younger generations. She has made a long-lasting impact on the United States and always put her country before herself. May peace be with Notorious RBG.