Cynthia Terry, Staff Writer
America lost a true hero on Friday when the Supreme Court announced the death of its Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died after a long battle with metastatic cancer of the pancreas. She was 87 years old.
Ginsburg was a legal, cultural and feminist icon. She served 27 years on the nation’s highest court. During those years, she played an integral role in a number of famous Supreme Court rulings, lending her voice to countless opinions, and became particularly well known for her scathing, clearly worded dissents. But even before becoming only the second woman on the Supreme Court, she fought tirelessly for gender equality under the law and battled sexism throughout her life and career.
Ginsburg graduated from Cornell University, then went to Harvard Law before transferring to Columbia. Although she faced off against sexist classmates and professors, she tied for first in her class at Columbia. She also became the first person, male or female, to become a member of both the Harvard and the Columbia Law Reviews, student-run journals of legal scholarship.
Despite her numerous accolades, she still had immense trouble in finding work. She spoke once in 1993 about her troubles, stating “I was Jewish, a woman, and a mother. The first raised one eyebrow; the second, two; the third made me indubitably inadmissible.” She found work at Rutgers Law School, as the second female law professor there, and had to fight for pay equality. She later became the first tenured female Columbia Law School professor. There, she fought for the rights of the school’s female maids, who were being laid off before the male janitors; she also fought on behalf of female employees to receive the same retirement benefits as men.
In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at ACLU. There she litigated gender inequality cases, tackling one law at a time. She argued in front of the Supreme Court six times and won five of them.
Then, she went from arguing cases before the Supreme Court to hearing them. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Finally, in 1993, President Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court; Ginsburg became the second woman and first Jewish person to be elected to the nation’s highest court in the federal judiciary.
Ginsburg was at the height of her popularity before her death, as young people continued to embrace her as a role model for justice, perseverance, and female empowerment. Her dissents earned her the nickname “The Notorious RBG” and this, combined with Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of Ginsburg on Saturday Night Live, solidified her status as a cultural icon.
With President Donald Trump’s declaration that he will choose a new justice to fill Ginsburg’s seat this upcoming weekend, many fear that his new representative will roll back Ginsburg’s political contributions. However, her impacts and memory can never be erased in full. Ginsburg fought for gender equality and equality for all. If not for her efforts, women would not have the right to get a loan or a credit card without a man’s signature, or the right to retain their jobs while they are pregnant. These are only some of the rights that women have now because of her. She was a fighter and advocate for those who needed it, giving truth to the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword.”