By Diane Grant
I just saw the documentary “RBG,” by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, about 85 year old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who took the oath of office on Aug. 10, 1993, becoming the second female jurist on the nation’s highest court.
(Even though Sandra Day O’Connor sat on the U.S. Supreme Court for twelve years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed, the court did not have a women’s bathroom until Ginsburg pointed it out.)
The documentary blew me away! It is so positive – a testimony to responsibility, persistence, intelligence and grace, and an inspiration for us all. I have the book Notorious RBG on hold at the library and am waiting eagerly for a feature film called “On the Basis of Sex,” with Felicity Jones as Ruth and Armie Hammer as Marty Ginsburg, her husband, scheduled for the fall.
Justice Ginsburg’s life is so full and her career and family life so successful (her husband was the first boy she had ever gone out with “who cared that I had a brain.”) that I’ll leave it to people to see and read about.
Just a few things. She became the director of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU. She was a top student at Cornell and Harvard and became a member of the Harvard Law Review.
It’s the gender equality cases that she argued that so interested me. She won five of the six cases at the Supreme Court that aimed at laws that treated men and women differently and her work has changed lives for us all, dealing with instances when not only women but also men and families were victims of discriminatory laws.
She experienced discrimination herself. While at Harvard Law she and the few other female students were asked how it felt to be taking up the spots of more-deserving, qualified males. Upon graduation, many firms were not interested in hiring her, despite her high honors. She would later write, “The traditional law firms were just beginning to turn around on hiring Jews. But to be a woman, a Jew, and a mother to boot—that combination was a bit too much.”
One of the cases she won involved a portion of the Social Security Act that favored women over men because it granted certain benefits to widows but not widowers. She wrote the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Virginia, which held that the state-supported Virginia Military Institute could not refuse to admit women.
In the Trumpian pro-deportation era, she played a hand in striking down legislation that allows certain noncitizens to be expelled and at 85, she continues on the Court,working sometimes until four in the morning and continuing to make a positive difference in our lives.
I’ll stop going on. Go see the movie!