As a community committed to the advancement of women, we deeply mourn the passing of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A brilliant and compassionate jurist, RBG, as she was affectionately known, was a staunch and revered advocate of gender equality. She was courageous and passionate in her fight for social justice, becoming an icon and role model for humanity.
Born Joan Ruth Bader, she grew up in a low-income, working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. Her mother, a factory worker who never realized her own dreams of attending college, was the future justice’s deep source of inspiration. Fortified by her mother’s encouragement and conviction, she went to Cornell University, graduating first in her class. In 1956, she became one of only nine women accepted to Harvard Law School, out of a class of 500. During a dinner hosted by the dean for the female students, they were famously asked how they could justify taking the place of a man at his school.
It is no wonder she went on to become one of the most accomplished advocates against gender discrimination.
Following law school, Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught at Rutgers University and Columbia, where she became the University’s first tenured female faculty member. During the 1970s she served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1980 she was appointed to the US Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia.
She was appointed to the US Supreme Court in 1993, only the second woman to join the bench of the highest court in the country, the first being Sandra Day O’Connor. While she leaves behind two other female justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor—who spoke at a record-breaking Springfield Public Forum event sponsored by Bay Path in September of 2015—Ginsburg was fond of saying there would be enough women on the nine-seat Supreme Court “when there are nine.”
Barely 5 feet tall, Ginsburg will be remembered as a colossus. Despite personal and family health complications and battles against sexism throughout her career, she “nevertheless persisted.”
To Martin Luther King’s famous quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," Ginsburg added but only "if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion."
As we further commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our own Bay Path community, let us embrace her charge.
We will come together to mourn her death and celebrate her life as a community later this week.
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