By Mia Currie
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing on Sept. 18, has brought increasing attention to the topics she held close to her heart. Throughout her life, Ginsburg fought against gender discrimination and took great strides toward equality in the workplace. From a young age she faced many societal pressures within her predominantly male class at Harvard as well as when looking for employment as a lawyer.
After meeting her future husband Martin Ginsburg at Cornell University, she took three years off school to start a family. He was soon drafted for two years of military service as an ROTC Officer in the Army Reserve, and only after his return did she enroll at Harvard University. She was chastised by professors and students at the university for taking a man’s seat at one of the most prestigious schools in the country but couldn’t be stopped from achieving her dream of becoming a lawyer who would change gender discrimination laws.
Her family faced some hardships early on, including her husband’s testicular cancer which lead to a relocation of the family and her studies. Although Ginsburg and her husband were both students at Harvard, she took on the challenge of keeping her husband up to date with his work so that he could graduate on time. After her husband healed and graduated from Harvard in 1958, she transferred from Harvard to Columbia where she graduated top of her class in 1959. Although she had exceptional credentials, she was denied employment at most law firms, which fueled her desire of equal opportunity in the workplace. This was until her favorite law professor at Columbia (Gerald Gunther) refused to recommend any other graduate students until U.S. District Judge Palmieri hired Ginsburg as a law clerk. This job was her first opportunity at working directly with the law and gaining some real experience. From this, her credentials accumulated, and she would become one of the most well-known advocates against gender discrimination.
Her husband was an enormous supporter of her passions and worked with her on fighting and successfully arguing six landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ginsburg’s radical thoughts during this time not only protected women’s rights but also men who were being discriminated against. A recent movie adaptation by Mimi Leder called “On the Basis of Sex” retold the complicated story of how the Ginsburg family overcame their struggles and overturned these Supreme Court cases. She was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Bill Clinton after 13 years of appointment to the Columbia District court by former President Jimmy Carter.
Her legacy still stands strong due to the countless men and women who advocate against gender discrimination in the workplace and in the home. Her passing has reignited the fire under the need for societal change and drawn attention to the current issues we face in 2020 regarding gender.