Remembering Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg


Photo by Maryam Khan. Flowers and signs lay outside of the U.S. Supreme Court building in memoriam of Ruth Bader Ginsburg the day after her passing.

Written by Annie Gilbert, Ainsleigh Shipp, and Carissa Vergeres

As the second woman to take her seat on the US Supreme Court, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was seen as a feminist icon continuously pushing for gender equality. Serving on the court from 1993 until her death at age 87 on September 18, 2020, she became one of its most prominent members. Recently, President Trump claimed he will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ginsburg in the Supreme Court, starting a long confirmation fight just weeks prior to the presidential election.

Ginsburg fought for equal rights among men and women until her final days; with cases like United States v. Virginia and Reed v. Reed, she soon claimed the nickname, the “Great Dissenter.” In the United States v. Virginia case, she wrote the majority opinion that it is unconstitutional for schools funded by taxpayers to bar women. In other words, she made it a law that state-sponsored schools could not exclude women on account of their gender. In addition to this ground-breaking case, Ginsburg accomplished the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 when she was an attorney. This act meant that women could apply for credit cards and mortgage purchases without a male co-signer. These cases, accompanied with the many strides taken toward equal pay, made Ginsburg a role model for women of all ages everywhere. 

While she was focused on the advancement of women’s rights, Ginsburg also supported equality for males. In the case Weinberger vs. Wiesenfeld, Stephen Wiesenfeld was seeking death benefits after his wife had died. However, under the Social Security law, he could not receive these benefits because he was a widower, not a widow. This law assumes the man would not need benefits because he would not have been dependent upon the wife. The Supreme Court ended up agreeing with Ginsburg that widowers should receive the same benefits as widows to help with the care and health of their families.

People tend to forget that Ginsburg worked to advance women’s rights even before she was on the Supreme Court. After graduating from Columbia Law School at the top of her class, she then went on to become the first female tenured professor there. In the 1970’s she served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. For this, Ginsburg argued six significant cases for gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning five of them. 

Her death, caused by complications with metastatic pancreas cancer, has led Americans everywhere to mourn her loss. Americans are also concerned with what Ginsburg’s death could lead to within the United States government. When asked on this topic, Woodgrove High School government teacher Diana Shea said, “With RBG’s passing and the circumstances since her death, the government may become more polarized in both the Court and Congress. Political gridlock may continue in Congress.” This is a big concern for some, especially since Ginsburg is being replaced on the supreme court with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a relatively conservative woman. 

The president’s pick, Barrett, seems like a great decision to some, but others are concerned about her naivete in the justice system. “For such an important position in government, I think Amy Coney Barrett is unqualified and inexperienced. She has never tried a case, never argued an appeal, has only two years in private practice, has never argued before the Supreme Court, and doesn’t seem to know the difference between church and state,” said junior Alessia Jones on the topic. Despite these concerns, we reflect on Ginsburg’s policies she has passed, continuously fighting for gender equality on and off the supreme court.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is and will always be a figurehead for women and men everywhere. As she said in a 2001 interview with the New York City Bar Association, “Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”