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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukraine PM Warns Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid