News / USA

Supreme Court Justice Continues Equality Fight

Ruth Bader Ginsburg provides court's articulate liberal voice

Multimedia

Audio

Only the second woman in U.S. history to serve on the nation’s highest court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg knew she wanted to be a lawyer by her third year in college.

Early inspiration

It was during the “red scare” in the 1950s, when Americans were fearful of the Soviet Union. Led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, thousands of people - especially in the entertainment industry and unions - were publicly accused of being Communists. Lives and careers were ruined.

“There were brave lawyers who were standing up for those people, and reminding our Senate, 'Look at the Constitution, look at the very First Amendment, what does it say? It says we prize, above all else, the right to think, to speak, to write, as we will, without Big Brother over our shoulders.' And my notion was, if lawyers can be helping us get back in touch with our most basic values, that’s what I want to be.”



Ginsburg’s parents discouraged her from studying law, fearful that she would not be able to find a job in the male-dominated profession. But she was determined and, after graduating from Cornell University in 1954, was accepted into Harvard Law School, just five years after they started admitting women.

“When I entered law school," Ginsburg says, "the class numbered over 500. Nine of us were women.”

Detail of Harvard Law Review Board of Editors, 1957-1958. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (far right) was one of only two women on the prestigious panel.
Detail of Harvard Law Review Board of Editors, 1957-1958. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (far right) was one of only two women on the prestigious panel.

Two years later, Ginsburg's husband - Martin Ginsburg, a renowned tax attorney and law professor - took a job in New York City, and Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School, where she received her degree in 1959.

Breaking into a man's world

And, as her parents had predicted, she found breaking into a man’s world challenging.

“There wasn’t a single firm in the entire city of New York that was willing to take a chance on me,” she remembers.

But with the help of a sympathetic professor, she got a clerkship. Soon after, she started teaching at Rutgers University School of Law and Columbia Law School.

In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project, an initiative of the American Civil Liberties Union, to work for equality for women and girls in all spheres of life.

“At that time there were many, many laws on the books that gave preference to men simply based on being men,” says Lenora Lapidus, who now runs the program. "Throughout the 1970s, as she led the Women’s Rights Project, Justice Ginsburg brought case after case to the Supreme Court in order to establish that the constitution prohibited sex discrimination.”

She was the lead attorney on Reed v Reed, a U.S. Supreme Court case which triggered the landmark 1971 decision declaring it unconstitutional to discriminate against a woman solely because of her gender.

US Supreme Court justices pose for a group portrait in 1994. From left, front are: Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy. From left, back row are: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, C
US Supreme Court justices pose for a group portrait in 1994. From left, front are: Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy. From left, back row are: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, C

Articulate voice

Two decades later, Ginsburg was a member of that court, appointed in 1993, by President Bill Clinton. Since then, she has been an articulate voice for the liberal wing of the bench.

According to Ginsburg, gender barriers facing women in the workplace today have all but disappeared in the United States. What remains, she says, is something a court cannot mandate: for American society to be open to the idea that women, and men, need a balance between work and family.

Ginsburg balanced her own life as a working mother of two children, with the love and support of her husband Martin, who died last year.

Martin D. Ginsburg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg taken in the fall of 1954 when Martin Ginsburg was serving in the Army.
Martin D. Ginsburg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg taken in the fall of 1954 when Martin Ginsburg was serving in the Army.

"The most important thing, by far, was that I had a life partner, my husband, who thought my work was at least as important as his," she says, "and who wanted very much to be part of his children’s growing-up years.”

At 78, Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg says she has always tried to do what she believes is right.  

“I hope that I will be remembered as someone who loves the law, loves her country, loves humanity, prizes the dignity of every individual, and works as hard as she can with whatever talent she has, to make the world a little better than it was when I entered it.”

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs