Such is the nature of the nation that even the death of a giant figure can be overshadowed by the raging debate over a successor and the future of the institution she cherished.
On Sept. 18, 2020, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at age 87. Immediately, all the focus turned to the question of whether President Donald Trump and Republicans would seek to replace her before the November election or during the lameduck congressional session afterward. Though Ginsburg well understood the nature of her liberal voice on the court and would have expected no less than a battle because her loss shifts the balance of power, she deserves more than to be honored and remembered in left-right terms.
Writing for Reader’s Digest (www.RD.com), Tina Donvito offers insight on the groundbreaking impact of the woman often called “RBG.”
“She fought tirelessly for gender equality under the law. She battled sexism in her own life and career. She juggled motherhood and caring for her cancer-stricken husband while still in law school. As a Supreme Court Justice, she was a role model for what every young girl (and every adult woman, for that matter) is capable of achieving.”
Donvito cites 15 ways in which Ginsburg made history:
• She graduated first in her class from Columbia Law School.
• She battled — and overcame — sexism personally at Harvard and Columbia Law.
• She was the first person on both the Harvard and Columbia law reviews.
• She became the second female law professor at Rutgers — and fought for equal pay.
• She co-founded the first law journal on women’s rights.
• She became the first tenured female law professor at Columbia.
• She co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
• She argued six cases before the Supreme Court — and won five.
• She became the first female Jewish Supreme Court justice.
• She’s one of only four females justices in history.
• Since 2010, RBG was also the most senior justice on the bench.
• She gained notice for her impassioned dissents.
• She was the first justice to officiate a same-sex marriage.
• She and her daughter became the first mother-daughter to teach on the same law faculty.
• She’s the only Supreme Court Justice to become a pop culture icon.
What made RBG such a force of nature? The Reader’s Digest article quotes Katherine Franke, Columbia Law School professor and Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law: “She understood exactly what kind of change she wanted to make — and be — in the world because she had experienced it so personally.”
The best tribute, however, comes in the form of Ginsburg’s own words on how she wants to be remembered: "(As) someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid."
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