Today, for our inaugural Fierce Femme Friday we are taking a look at the Notorious RBG herself, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She is more than a Supreme Court Justice, she is a cultural icon, but why?
Born in 1933 during the height of the Great Depression Ruth came from a working class background. Her father was a furrier (someone who deals in furs) and her mother was a factory worker. She rose to graduate at the top of her class from Columbia University in 1954. However, her road to the Supreme Court was not a straight shot. Shortly after her graduation, her husband was drafted into the Army and she followed him to Oklahoma.
In 1955 she and her husband welcomed their first child. When she expressed her concerns about going to law school while having a small child her father-in-law told her, “Ruth, if you don’t want to start law school, you have a good reason to resist the undertaking. No one will think the less of you if you make that choice. But if you really want to study law, you will stop worrying and find a way to manage child and school.” Ruth and her husband did just that. When he got out of the Army in 1956 Ruth went to Harvard Law where she was only one of nine women to attend law school.
If all of that wasn’t enough, her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1956. He recovered in 1959 and she transferred back to Columbia University where she graduated with a law degree.
It was the 1960’s and getting work as a female attorney was next to impossible. It wasn’t until one of her professors vowed not to make any more recommendations to a US District Judge that Ruth finally got a job, as a law clerk, but hey, as one of my mentors always told me sometimes to take a step forward you have to take a step back. Ruth eventually got work in law firms but never at the same pay as her male colleagues. She went on to join the Columbia Law Project on International Civil Procedure.This led her and her family to live in Sweden so that she could study and eventually write a book on Swedish Civil Procedure. She came back to the United States and became a professor, first at Rutgers University and then at Columbia. It is important to note that while a professor at Rutgers she had to hide her pregnancy.
Ruth has been a women’s rights warrior since the 1970’s when she joined the Women’s Rights Project with the American Civil Liberty Union. At the ACLU she fought against gender discrimination. In 1980 she was appointed to the US Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter. She was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. As a Supreme Court Justice she has continued to fight for women’s rights.
However, this 84-year-old two time cancer survivor powerhouse has no intention of slowing down. She intends on being a Justice for as long as she can and she works out every day with a personal trainer. She does low impact cardio and strength training that includes one legged squats, 30-second planks, and weight lifting. Rumor has it that she lifts more than the other Justices.
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