Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead. The Supreme Court justice passed away at the age of 87, according to CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, who tweeted the news a short while ago. A powerful figure in the fight for gender equality, Ginsburg was an advocate for women’s rights long before she became only the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, per History. Ginsburg’s time in the country’s highest court spanned four decades, making her the fourth oldest justice to ever serve.
From A Young Age Ginsburg Broke Barriers
Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York. Her father Nathan was a Jewish immigrant from Odessa, Ukraine, and her mother Celia was born to Austrian Jewish parents. Ginsburg had an older sister, Marilyn, who died of meningitis when she was only 14 months old. Celia was a strong advocate of Ginsburg’s education but tragically passed away due to cancer days before her daughter graduated from high school at the age of 15.
Ginsburg attended Cornell University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government in 1954 as the highest-ranking female student in her graduating class. While at Cornell, Ginsburg met Martin D. Ginsburg, and the two were married a month after her graduation. In 1955, Ginsburg gave birth to the couple’s first child, Jane C. Ginsburg.
Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School in the fall of 1956, becoming one of only nine women in her class. After her husband took a job in New York City, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School. She graduated with a law degree in 1959, tied for first in her class.
Following her graduation, Ginsburg began a career in academia. In 1963, she was hired by Rutgers University as a professor of law. Ginsburg’s appointment made her one of fewer than 20 female law professors in the United States. She moved on to Columbia in 1972, where she became the university’s first tenured woman. While at Columbia, Ginsburg co-authored the first casebook on gender discrimination.
Ginsburg Advocated For Gender Equality Throughout Her Legal Career
Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1972. By 1974, that and other related ACLU projects had participated in more than 300 gender discrimination cases. Ginsburg brought her cases against gender discrimination to the Supreme Court six times between 1973 and 1976, winning five of her arguments. Ginsburg’s achievements include: extending the protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to women; allowing both male and female service members to receive the same housing allowances for their spouses; allowing both widows and widowers to collect the same special benefits when caring for children; synchronizing drinking laws for both men and women; and ending jury duty being optional for women.
In 1980, Ginsburg was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was confirmed later in the year. She served in her role until she was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, taking her oath of office on August 10, 1993. Ginsburg’s appointment made her only the second woman to be confirmed for the Supreme Court, following Sandra Day O’Connor.
During her time as a justice, Ginsburg generally found herself aligned with the court’s legal wing. Among the majority opinions that Ginsburg authored include United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. Ginsburg became a notable pop culture figure due to her passionate dissents and refusals to step down in her later years, earning the nickname “The Notorious R.B.G.,” a reference to the deceased rapper The Notorious B.I.G.