As the highest court in the United States, the Supreme Court can overturn any law or presidential directive. This huge power is concentrated in the hands of just 9 people, who are nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and have life tenure. One of the most famous justices of the Supreme Court in American history is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, fondly known as RBG. She was the second woman to serve on the Court since its establishment in 1789, and held that post for 27 years, from 1993 to 2020. Her life was the subject of two 2018 films, On the Basis of Sex and RGB. And what a life that was!
Ruth was born in 1933 to Jewish immigrant parents in New York. In 1950, she entered Cornell University, where she met her future husband, Martin Ginsburg. Later she said, “Marty was the first boy I ever dated who cared that I had a brain.” By 23, Ruth already had a Bachelor of Arts degree, a husband, and a child. But that was only the beginning. In 1956, she enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of 9 female students amongst 500 men, as the school only started admitting women in 1950.
Ruth got her law degree in 1959, graduating with top marks. But despite her academic accomplishments, she then struggled to find work. As she later explained, “In the 50s… to be a woman, a Jew, and a mother to boot, that combination was a bit much.” But she was unstoppable. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU and focused on arguing (and winning) gender discrimination cases. She had served on the US Court of Appeals for 13 years, until being nominated to the Supreme Court. During her tenure as a Justice, this little feisty lady continued to advocate for gender equality and ruled on many landmark cases that changed the lives of Americans for the better.