Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Feminist Icon

On September 18th, 2020, we lost one of the most inspiring and empowering women in the US, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, otherwise known as RBG.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg died at 87 years old due to metastatic pancreatic cancer. RBG served on the Supreme Court of the United States for over 27 years. She was also the second woman ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

RBG has been fighting for women’s rights issues for more than 40 years as a Judge and a Justice. She even had a documentary made about her life that was based on her first sex discrimination court case. She went on to argue over 300 gender discrimination cases over her lifetime. 

Significant Rulings:

1971 – Reed v. Reed

When Richard Lynn Reed died, his mother Sally, and his father Cecil submitted applications to be designated as the sole administrator of his estate. Sally had recently separated from her husband, Cecil Reed. Cecil’s application was approved due to an Idaho statute that stated, “males must be preferred to females” when more than one qualified person is available to administer an estate. 

RBG said this was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the Supreme Court unanimously voted in favor of striking down the Idaho statute. This was the first time the Court’s history that they applied the Equal Protection Clause to a law that discriminated against women. 

2007 – Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber CO., INC.

Lily Ledbetter started her job at the same salary as her male co-workers, but by the end of their tenure at Goodyear, she made thousands less a year than the men at her job. Ledbetter claimed the employee evaluations were discriminatory and sued Goodyear based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of gender. 

The majority of the Supreme Court ruled that Ledbetter’s claim should have been filed within 180 days of the discriminatory salary decision. RBG filed a dissenting opinion and called the majority ruling “out of tune with the realities of wage discrimination.” 

She fiercely called upon congress to do something since the Court did not, “The court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination.” 

As a result of her dissenting opinion, in 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and reset the statute of limitations on equal-pay lawsuits with every paycheck. 

2016 – Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt

This was a case where the Court ruled that the State of Texas cannot restrict abortion services that unjustifiably burden women who seek an abortion. 

RBG wrote a concurrence that no other justices signed. She noted that “many medical procedures, including childbirth,” are more dangerous than abortion. She also stated that the Texas law that was restricting abortions was “beyond rational belief.” This verdict was seen as another victory for women’s rights at the hands of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

During her many years as a Judge and Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg relentlessly fought for women around the country but recalled feeling most alone when she was the only woman on the Supreme Court. In the book Conversations with RBG, she said, “The image to the public entering the courtroom was eight men, of a certain size, and then this little woman sitting to the side. This was not a good image for the public to see.” 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg may have been physically small, but her everlasting legacy and contributions to women’s rights will remain colossal. 

Sarah Limas

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