The passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on Friday, September 18, 2020, at her home in Washington, aged 87, is bound to cause a stir, a short 46 days before the US Presidential election.
She was a person to whom women across the US and the world looked up, with a sense of “can do”. Her passing could not be more timely, politically speaking, as the US could be electing its first female Vice-President in a few weeks’ time.
Whether one sides with the Republicans or the Democrats, there are several indications of the late judge’s legacy, of which I pick here ten that I hope will inspire you as much as they inspire me:
1. Ms Ginsburg became known by her acronym RBG. The familiarity and status that her personality achieved amidst the people is a first for a Supreme Court judge-not a rock star. Word plays as in “You Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth” show the influence she achieved in popular culture.
2. RBG had every reason to stay unnoticed. At 1,55cm, an unassuming Jewish girl from Brooklyn, conservative and religious, had all the usual odds against her. However, she persevered and reached the top of America’s judiciary system, to become the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
3. Apart from being an accomplished professional, RBG was a family woman. She passed at home in Washington, surrounded by her family. She had two children and four grandchildren.
4. In spite of her fragile appearance, RBG worked out regularly with a trainer.
5. RBG’s daughter, Jane Carol Ginsburg, is Professor of Literary and Artistic Property law at Columbia Law School, and a member of the British Academy. She is the daughter of two Columbia Law professors, and she is married to a lawyer. Her daughter, RBG’s granddaughter, Clara Spera, is a Harvard Law School graduate. Justice Ginsburg and her daughter Jane, are the first mother-daughter pair ever to serve on the same law faculty in the United States.
7. Following her famous Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld case (1975) and the Supreme Court victory, Ms. Ginsburg stayed in touch with her clients for decades, being closely involved with the father and son. She helped officiate at the son’s wedding, and presided over her one-time client’s second marriage. A female characteristic of caring beyond the call of duty.
8. RBG inspired a film which was shown while she was alive, “On the Basis of Sex” (2018)
9.She supported gender equality without extreme opinions: “Inherent differences between men and women, we have come to appreciate, remain a use for celebration,” she wrote, “but not for the gration of the members of either sex or for artificial constraints on an individual’s opportunity.” Any differential treatment, she emphasized, must not “create or perpetuate the legal, social, and economic inferiority of women.”(via)
10.RBG had an understanding of women’s condition, following her mother’s life story. Celia Bader was an intellectually ambitious woman who graduated from high school at 15 but had not been able to go to college, as her family chose to send her brother to college. he died at the age of 47 in 1950, on the day before her daughter’s high school graduation.
“I pray that I may be all that she would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons,” she had said
11. RBG enjoyed her husband’s support. They met when she was 17 and they married after she graduated from Law School. He gave up his successful career as a tax lawyer, to become his wife’s biggest booster, happily giving up his lucrative New York law practice to move with her to Washington in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter named her to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
12. RBG loved wearing tailored suits by the designer Giorgio Armani, as well as patterned jackets acquired on her travels. She appeared on several lists of best-dressed women.
13. In her social life she appeared shy and withdrwan leaving the floor to her more outgoing husband.
14. She influenced many women around the globe, including the first Greek President of the Republic, Ms. Ekaterini Sakelaropoulou who had a cup with her face on her working desk at the Presidential palace.
If anything, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reputation and the eulogies that will follow show that society demands a more important role for women. The sooner all political parties understand and embrace it, the better for democracy and society.