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Fri September 25 2020, 1:59 // Posted by matthewkfong

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: her legacy and advocacy for gender equality and women’s rights

On September 18, 2020, we said farewell to a trailblazer for women’s rights, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Throughout her tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg became well known in pop culture: used in internet memes (see Notorious R.B.G.), recognized for her achievements, and cited as a key feminist in a position of power. Ginsburg was known for tactful approaches to cases and fervent dissents in numerous cases brought to the Supreme Court. 

Setting herself up for success

Being a woman, Ginsburg faced countless cases of gender discrimination throughout her life. Throughout her academic career, she completed her bachelor’s at Cornell University, attended law school at Harvard Law School and transferred to Columbia Law School where she graduated joint first in her class. Ginsburg was one of nine women in her 500-student class at Harvard.

Post degree, Ginsburg struggled to find a position in the legal industry. Not only was she a woman, but Jewish, and a mother. It wasn’t until a Columbia professor vouched for Ginsburg against any other graduate before U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri who hired Ginsburg as a clerk.

In 1972, Ginsburg founded and directed the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. By 1974, when Ginsburg became a professor at Rutger and Columbia Law School, the project participated in around 300 gender discrimination cases nationwide, including arguing six landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1980, she was appointed to the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She served until being appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993, being the second woman to be appointed the title of Justice after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The fight for equal rights

As Associate Justice, Ginsburg remedied and imposed laws against gender discrimination. One of her most notable cases is the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) in 1974. Prior to this act, women were not eligible for credit cards or loans under their name. The ECOA prohibits banks from discriminating against applicants based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age. This act not only gave women more autonomy and efficacy in their own goals, but set in law that any citizen of legal age is eligible to credit, allowing financial independence for all.

Her fight for gender equality has also extended to the fight for LGBT rights with her support for pro-LGBT rulings like nullifying sodomy laws in 2003, throwing out the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, legalizing marriage equality in the US in 2015, and ruling “employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is barred by the sex discrimination provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s title VII.”

Her mark in history

Ginsburg’s hard work and dedication has set precedents for the personal potential women have, especially in the legal field. In the U.S., as of 2020, 37% of lawyers are women, a significant increase of 34% since 1971 when only 3% of lawyers were women. Though the news of passing leaves the hearts of many broken, she has impacted the masses and was a role model for the unheard. Many equal rights groups have expressed their condolences, reassuring the late Ginsburg that her efforts continuously spark change and betterment of society, or how her unwavering support… was a testament to her commitment to equality for all people. Ginsburg’s accolades are written in history and will be forever known as a significant figure in Western third-wave feminism.