Portrait photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87 and served on the Supreme Court since 1993. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Anya Marquardt is a sophomore English major with a minor in journalism. 

On Sept. 18, the United States lost a true trailblazer and inspiration: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The 87-year-old judge served on the Supreme Court since 1993 and advocated for many different groups, including women and the LGBTQ community. She was a major influence on many high profile cases that have gone through the Supreme Court, including United States v. Virginia, which tackled women’s rights in the military, and Obergefell v. Hodges that dealt with same sex marriage. It goes without saying — Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made a significant impact in the United States.

Ginsburg came from humble beginnings in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in a low income family — her mother had to work in a factory in order to pay for Ginsburg’s brother’s college education. Ginsburg excelled in high school despite being at a major financial disadvantage. She credited her mother as one of her biggest influences, and said that her mother taught her how valuable it was to be independent and to get a good education. Ginsburg went on to attend Cornell University, where in 1954, she finished first in her class and married her husband, then law student Martin Ginsburg. Ginsburg gave birth to her first child, Jane, right after her husband was drafted into the military later that year, leaving her to raise a child.

Ginsburg joined her husband at Harvard Law in 1956, after he was discharged from the military. Her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer soon after, leaving Ginsburg to tend to him and their daughter while continuing her studies. She was only one of nine women in the program of more than 500, and was criticized by the dean for taking a spot from a “qualified male.” However, she continued to excel, becoming the first female member of the Harvard Law Review. She later transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated first in her class and was elected to the school’s law review. Despite facing gender discrimination early in her career, Ginsburg persisted.

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She became the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and subsequently argued six major cases regarding gender equality in front of the Supreme Court. Not long afterwards, she caught the attention of President Jimmy Carter, who appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. in 1980. She was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton. She was only the second woman to become a Supreme Court Justice. Even though there was some concern about her past social advocacy, she was easily confirmed and began working on significant cases that changed the course of women’s rights. 

In the United States v. Virginia case in 1996, Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion that eliminated Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) male-only admission policy. She wrote, “Women seeking and fit for a VMI quality education cannot be offered anything less, under the State’s obligation to afford them genuinely equal protection.” 

Ginsburg was also an advocate for LGBTQ rights and had a major impact on the Supreme Court’s decision on 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges. The case ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry in all 50 states. She fought against arguments provided by fellow justices John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, who claimed that the Court could not overturn “marital tradition” and marriage should not exist between people who cannot procreate. 

As a girl growing up in a time when the women’s rights movement was moving to a climax, I always felt that Roe v. Wade was an astronomical case. I realized by the time I was in the midst of learning about political issues that a woman’s right to choose was a hot topic that I was truly interested in. A woman’s right to choose is something I always believed in and the way that Justice Ginsburg fought for the strongest foundation for the case inspired me. 

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I have always admired Ginsburg for the work she did. I have followed politics for years, and seeing a woman in power who never let anything stop her from achieving her goals will continue to inspire me. Women are bombarded with stereotypes and misogynistic comments about their role in society, and seeing a woman rise above that false notion empowers me. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her entire life breaking gender norms and fighting for others. No matter how difficult the challenge ahead of her, she continued to persevere. We should continue to learn from Ginsburg’s work, and we should honor her memory and all she did for us.

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