In Sixth Class, we have been learning about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The following piece was written by Rosalyn:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg died recently, on September 18th, 2020. She was best known for being An Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in the USA, and the second woman to be elected to the Supreme Court. She worked her way up to this area of law at a time when sexism was particularly common and she fought for gender equality.
Ruth was born on March 15th, 1933. There are not many records from when she was younger. However, we do know that her mother unfortunately died of cancer when she was only 17. Her parents had told her to work hard and to try to achieve whatever she believed in. She had a partner who supported her and believed in women’s rights just like she did. His name was Marty, and he was a very kind, funny, and supportive person who allowed Ruth to be whatever she wanted and supported her decisions. Once, at an informal interview, Marty had said that Ruth was no longer allowed in the kitchen because of her awful cooking! Marty and Ruth met when she was 18 and he was 19 at Cornell college. He went on to study law at Harvard law school where she got accepted the following year. She wanted to be a lawyer because she wanted to make a change in society and to make America more equitable. By the time she had finished college at Cornell, she had married Marty. Then Marty got into Harvard Law School and Ruth got in the next year.
Ruth started Harvard in 1956. One time when Ruth was going to go into the school library, the male librarian came up to her and said, “Women are not permitted in this library, only men are.” This made her want to change this kind of attitude even more. When Marty was in third year, he took ill. Then, Ruth had to look after their daughter and Marty, and she also had to do Marty’s college work so he could keep up with his classmates. Sometimes when Ruth was working late, Marty had to remind her to come home! Then, because Marty needed to be in New York for medical reasons, Ruth decided to transfer to Columbia Law School to finish her learning there. She found it difficult to find a job in New York. They first went to the biggest law firm in America and asked them if Ruth could be employed there. The firm hinted that they would be interested but when Marty told them it was a woman, they refused.
Some discriminatory laws in effect in 1970 were:
1. Employees could actually fire a woman for being pregnant
2. A male who has married a woman can abuse the woman they have married without getting prosecuted
3. A husband has to sign a piece of paper in the bank to let a woman take out money
In 1963, Ruth began working as a lawyer and she dealt with gender discrimination cases. She never used small talk and was rather quiet. Her first big case was Frontiero V Richardson. A woman who was in the Air Force came and told Ruth that she wasn’t getting paid fairly and she also wasn’t getting a housing allowance, like her male colleagues, even though they were doing the same job. Frontiero (the woman who Ruth was representing) had also said that when she had gone to inform the person in Accounts, they had said that she was lucky to even be working at the Air Force! When Ruth went to the District Court, the case was declined so then Ruth brought the case to the Supreme Court. There, the case passed.
It was not just discrimination against women that she took on but also men. As in Weinberger V Wiesenfeld. This case included a recently widowed man who tried to claim an allowance for a one-parent family but he was told that he didn’t qualify because that allowance was only for women. This case got passed. After three more cases, she had won five out of six cases in the Supreme Court.
Then, a new American president, Bill Clinton, was elected and he had said that he agreed with Ruth’s points and her perspective. Ruth got appointed to the DC circuit. President Clinton had a very clear idea of what he wanted America to be like, and he was trying to find a new member for the supreme court. Marty told him about Ruth and he had asked to see her in an interview. After the interview, Ruth got elected into the Supreme Court. On the Supreme Court, there were 5 conservative and 4 liberal representatives, and only two women. She was the second woman elected to the Supreme Court.
Ruth then had her first case as a member of the Supreme Court. The case was US V Virginia. It was about a woman who wanted to attend VMI (Virginia Military Institute) but the state of Virginia was against it. This case passed and by 1997 women were allowed in VMI.
This year, Ruth Bader Ginsburg sadly passed away.