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The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Many young girls have someone they look up to. For some, that's a musical artist, an actress, or even a family member. Someone who they look up to, in hopes of achieving their level of prosperity and intelligence. And for many, that person was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Art by Geena San Diego

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and an advocate for women's rights and equality. She also served as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Ginsburg, 1977

Ginsburg was born in 1933, a Brooklyn native, and graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor of arts degree. Ranked the highest female in her class, she pursued higher education and attended Harvard law school, and Columbia University, where she earned a law degree. Ginsburgs’ career journey started rough, being declined positions due to her gender constantly, but she eventually started working as a clerkship for Judge Palmieri. From there, she climbed her way up to a professor position at Rutgers law school, soon after starting the “Women’s Rights Law Reporter,” the first law journal exclusively about women's rights. Ginsburg worked on many cases like Reed v. Reed, Frontiero v. Richardson, Weinberger v. Weisenfeld, and most notably Roe v. Wade.

It was in June 1993 when President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. From there, she became the second female and first jewish female on the Supreme Court. In her time there, she fought against gender discrimination, international law, women’s rights, and abortion laws/rights.

In 2006, when Sandra Day O’Connor retired, Ginsburg became the only female justice on the Supreme Court. It was then when she began to catch fire with the newer generations, coining herself the name “The Notorious R.B.G.” Many began to sell merchandise and products with the nickname plastered on, and Ginsburg was made into an iconic Tumblr meme. She quickly became a feminist icon, and inspired many with her impact on gender equality and womens rights. Ginsburg served as a role model for women all over the globe, being a female in power with huge amounts of success in a male dominated work field. 

Ginsburg passed away on September 18th, 2020 due to complications of pancreatic cancer. Immediately following the announcement, many people were concerned for the future of women’s, people of color, and LGBTQ+ rights. Ginsburg's final request was to not have her position filled until there was a new president elected, which brought up many questions. The most pressing, however, were who would be replacing Ginsburg, and what was to happen to Roe v. Wade? The death of Ginsburg raised the stakes for the upcoming election, and worried many. Who would replace Ginsburg would depend on who was elected into office on November third.

Aside from the political aftermath, many were incredibly saddened by the news of her passing. Hundreds attended her memorial service at the Supreme Court, where they gave their final goodbyes. Former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, and President Trump also attended her casket to give a few words and pay their respects. Immediately following the news of her death, there was an outpour of sorrow and sympathy towards her family all over social media, where many also shared their stories on how she impacted and inspired them.

Ruven Afanador

While Joe Biden stayed silent on the matter, President Donald Trump announced he would nominate a “very talented, very brilliant woman.” That woman was Amy Coney Barett. While a female nominee looked like good news, there was still a huge question at hand: what would she do for cases that protected peoples’ rights, like Roe v. Wade? The subject of Roe v. Wade came up quickly when the day after Ginsburg's passing–entrepreneur Mike Coudrey tweeted “Say goodbye to Roe v. Wade.” The very cryptic tweet left many confused and worried for the future of abortion and equality laws. With the elimination of Roe v. Wade, many women in the United States would be left without the choice of being able to have an abortion. Along with that, her passing would leave the Supreme Court without any women, which could have a large impact on the outcome of many laws and cases.

To put it simply, Ginsberg's death during Trump's presidency was something many were hoping to avoid. Nonetheless, her passing pushed many to advocate the importance of careful selection to the Supreme Court even more, because in the end, the next President of the United States could end up dictating the fate of women's rights for potentially the next several decades.

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