Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the most famous feminists to live. Though, when Justice Ginsburg began her career, feminism was not a standard label. Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933, in New York City. She was not raised as a strict Jew, but much of her education was centered on Jewish life. She would go on to be educated at two of the most prestigious law schools in the country—Harvard and Columbia—after earning her bachelor’s degree at Cornell. This was a time, mind you, that women were often rejected from universities for having the wrong sex genes alone.
Women were expected to be solely devoted to their children and husbands. Though she was dedicated to her husband, she knew that being a woman did not preclude her from greatness. It is doubtful, however, that she meant to be a household name. She merely meant to dedicate her life to human rights.
One of the unique things about her husband, Marty, was that he was interested in her intellect. He did not expect her to be this shy, demure, reserved servant.
Sure, in many ways, she was quieter and shyer than other justices may have been, but she was not one to back down from the good fight. Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew that juggling motherhood and marriage was challenging. NPR reports that during her time at Harvard, her husband had testicular cancer. Ginsberg took care of him and their child as well as handling her own educational and career needs. She helped him finish his studies and completed hers. They were a team, and it was time for her to shoulder the weight. This was indeed a delicate balance and could have broken her. She was, nevertheless, much tougher than the adverse conditions she was experiencing.
Her career in law began as an advocate for many. She began her clerkship under Judge Edmund Palmieri and co-authored a book with Swedish civil procedure scholar Anders Bruzelius. This is, of course, not where she would stop. Ginsburg would begin teaching at Rutgers. While she spent most of her career advocating for change, she knew that she must work the system first. She chose to hide her second pregnancy so that her contract could be renewed. This would mark the beginning of her work for women’s rights and gender equality. She worked as a law professor at both Rutgers and Columbia and founded the Women’s Rights Project.
She was not merely a women’s rights advocate, though. She also argued that gender equality extended to men. Males should not be denied benefits as military spouses, caregivers for the elderly, and dozens of other legal allowances that women might encounter. Gender equality meant equality for all genders, not just a lifting of women’s rights.
Women often look up to Justice Ginsberg because of their balance, but men could learn a thing or two from her, too. She was a proponent for women’s rights, but for her, feminism was never about stripping men of theirs. She wanted true equality for all. She stood up for what she thought was right and advocated for change.
Everyone should be a little more like her.