Few women have shared the prestige of being a member of the Supreme Court, and before Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, none of them had.
A new biography seeks to tie the lives of the two iconic judges into one volume called Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World. Author Linda Hirshman would appear to have her work cut out for her; after all, the two women are of contrasting political ideologies and even more contrasting backgrounds. Bader Ginsburg was raised in New York, while Day O’Connor was born on a ranch, reported NPR.
Still, the pair was well aware of one issue that married their two visions together: women’s rights and the pivotal role both of them had in pushing them forward. One case in particular highlights this union between Sandra and Ruth — 1995’s United States v Virginia. In the case, Ginsburg delivered the majority opinion explaining why the court had voted 7-1 in favor of allowing women into the Virginia Military Institute’s traditionally all-male academy. O’Connor, NPR reports, gave that honor up to Ruth voluntarily.
“As this court said some 14 years ago, state actors may not close entrance gates based on fixed notions concerning the roles and abilities of males and females.”
Hirshman is, of course, a passionate fan of both of the justices. In peeling through the layers of each woman as both a legal actor and a human being, she was also given a peek into the psychology of Sandra and Ginsburg. In an article for the New York Daily News, she stated that the two should be role models for times when women are often pitted against each other.
“At a moment when the news is filled with stories of cat fights among female pop stars and Republican Carly Fiorina is doing the heavy lifting of attacking Hillary Clinton, we should learn from women who disagree constructively. Indeed, in light of the criticism of Justice Antonin Scalia for his intemperate writings, Ginsburg’s and O’Connor’s interactions show how strong-willed colleagues of any gender can do it right.”
From the way the women speak about each other, it seems that Sandra and Ruth did more than “disagree constructively,” but rather managed to cultivate a friendship, and for Ginsburg, perhaps even a mentorship.
“She was the best big sister you could wish for. I never knew how much I would miss her until she was gone.”
Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s joint biography Sisters in Law is now in stores.
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