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The Nation

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Fierce women's advocate, and icon in her own right
7 min read
fairly difficult
Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, was a fierce advocate for the equal treatment of women in every aspect of life.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was getting very little sleep. It was the early 1970s, and she was teaching at Columbia Law School while founding the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and litigating historic gender discrimination cases nationwide. She was also a parent, raising two children with husband Marty. Their youngest, James, was a handful. And when James had a problem at school – a common occurrence – it was Ruth's phone, not Marty's, that would ring.

One day the school called Ms. Ginsburg's Columbia office after she had been up all night writing a brief. She'd had enough. Picking up the phone she said, tartly, "This child has two parents. Please alternate calls. It's his father's turn."

Then she hung up.

After that the school called perhaps once a semester, Justice Ginsburg recounted gleefully in 2018 onstage at the Sundance Film Festival. They'd been fine with bothering her, but had been reluctant to interrupt Marty, a lawyer with a private firm.

As an attorney, law professor, judge – and yes, as a parent – Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away Friday, was always a fierce advocate for the equal treatment of women in every aspect of life. "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed," she reportedly dictated to her granddaughter in her final days.

Piece by piece, case by case, she helped dismantle and rebuild for the better the ways women work, are paid, acquire responsibility, and participate in American political and economic society.

In doing so Justice Ginsburg became an icon of achievement. Rare is the Supreme Court justice able to create a distinct legacy. Rarer still is the justice able to create a distinct legacy, shape an entire area of the law, and become a pop culture icon recognized around the country: the fiery, jabot-wearing Notorious R.B.G.

There is truth in the caricature. Justice Ginsburg's dissents could flick like switchblades. As a young…
Peter Grier, Henry Gass
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