When I was asked the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew who I wanted to be; I wanted to be just like the iconic Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She spent her entire life working toward making a difference in this world, and I want to do the same.
My mom used to educate me on who she was and what differences she made for women in this country. When I pictured Ruth, I pictured a superhero. She was someone people could look up to and gain confidence from.
Her death hit me harder than most. What makes me most fearful is the realization that the next generation would have to grow up without someone like her fighting for gender equality.
Ruth, you resembled courage, perseverance and power. You were my personal hero for many years. In what I used to think was a man’s world, you taught me just the opposite. You fought for me to have the job opportunities I have now.
One of the many instances where she broke the status quo was her graduation from Columbia Law School. When she shared her voice in a 2016 New York Times Op-Ed, “Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Advice for the Living,” she said that becoming a judge during this current era wasn’t as rare as it was when she had pursued her law degree. Women in the 1950s accounted for less than 3 percent of the legal profession, according to Ginsburg.
However, this accomplishment was not without struggles. Upon graduating from Columbia University and tying for first in her class in 1959, she encountered problems with finding employment, specifically due to her gender. According to the New York Times, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter received the recommendation for Ginsburg to become his law clerk, but denied her the position because he wasn’t ‘ready’ to hire a woman.
Despite this setback, she still prevailed in academia. In her first position as a professor at Rutgers Law School in 1963, she was informed she would be paid less due to her husband having a well-paid job. Still, she took the job to be a professor of law to educate the next generation on civil procedure. I’m envious of those who were taught by her. If not for just her brilliant mind, but because they got to be a part of the history she would create later in her life.
Ginsburg’s efforts were no match for those trying to keep her down; she was headstrong in her pursuit of justice for those who were marginalized. When she did work as a lawyer, she took on cases strategically. Instead of just focusing her efforts on getting the court to end gender discrimination at once, she spread it out. She chose to represent cases that demonstrated discrimination in both men and women in specific statues. By choosing to do this, she was able to change the law’s view on gender discrimination entirely.
She was an insatiable woman when it came to gender equality. And that same tenacious attitude paid off when she became the second woman ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The amount of respect I have for her is overwhelming. She didn’t let society belittle her; she went after what she wanted and did so with grace.
She was known for her strong opinionated dissents, most of which she referred to as writing for the ‘future age,’ creating optimism for a better tomorrow, instead of simply ridiculing her colleagues’ opinions. She was a woman of very influential words. One I will never forget was her opinion on the government and women’s reproductive rights.
“This is something central to a woman’s life, to her dignity. It’s a decision that she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices,” said Ginsburg in a 1993 Senate Hearing on her nomination to become an associate justice.
I feel empowered by her words and proud of all that she has accomplished in her lifetime. Even in the midst of battling cancer and dealing with the loss of her husband, she never let it take her focus away from justice.
So, I just have these final words for her:
Ruth, thank you for all that you’ve done to start the movement toward a better tomorrow. The work you have done does not end with you. We will continue to fight for justice for all. Your legacy proceeds you, now and into the future.
As you’ve described:
“Fight for the things you care about,” Ginsburg said. “But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Rest in power, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You will be missed.
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