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Feminist Icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg Gone, but Not Forgotten

15:00 September 22, 2020
By: Abbey Hebert

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died September 18, 2020, from pancreatic cancer, which she had initially been diagnosed with in 2003. Ginsburg's death sparked a contentious and chaotic political debate. This upcoming election is already reinforcing rigid political divides, and now there's a vacancy on the Supreme Court, which will decide the political leaning of it. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate, as stated in the Constitution. Today's debate is centered around whether a new justice should be appointed prior to the 2020 presidential election or not.

In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, months before the 2016 presidential election. Mitch McConnell argued that President Obama had no right to appoint someone that close to an election and stated that the Senate would withhold their consent on a justice. "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president," said McConnell at the time, according to an article by CNN.

President Obama appointed Merrick Garland, who was the chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Garland was generally liked by both parties and had already been confirmed by the Senate, which led Obama to believe that the Senate would confirm him as the new Supreme Court justice. The Senate refused to confirm Garland, which then resulted in the longest amount of time between a Supreme court nomination and its confirmation.

Though he set the precedent in 2016, Mitch McConnell still wishes to push forward on installing a new Supreme Court justice within the remainder of President Trump's 2016 presidency, although the Democrats have clearly advocated for its postponement. According to an article by NPR, Clara Spera reported that Ginsburg specifically said, "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

Ginsburg, born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933, served on the Supreme Court for 27 years. She attended Cornell University, where she met her husband Martin Ginsburg, with a full scholarship and graduated summa cum laude in 1954. In 1955, she had her first child and enrolled in Harvard Law, where she was one of nine women in the 500-student class. Her husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1956, which was her first year at Harvard; Ginsburg balanced raising her child, excelling in academics, and caring after her husband, which ranged from feeding him to helping him write papers. Ginsburg became the first female member of the Harvard Law Review, as written in a biography by Oyez.

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Ginsburg and her family moved to New York City when her husband was offered a job at a law firm there. Ginsburg transferred from Harvard Law to Columbia Law School, as she had one year of law school left. Ginsburg graduated summa cum laude (again) from Columbia Law in 1959.

In the early 1960s, Ginsburg struggled to find a job, due to gender-based discrimination in the workplace. After working as a typist for two years for the U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri, who only hired her because a professor from Columbia heavily advocated for her, she accepted a job as a professor at Rutgers University Law School in 1963. She wore her mother-in-law's clothes to hide her second pregnancy, afraid that she would be fired if her employers found out that she was pregnant. Eventually, she accepted another job as a professor at Columbia in 1972, where she became the first female professor to earn tenure.

Ginsburg worked for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the 1970s. She fought against gender discrimination and won six Supreme Court landmark cases, including, Frontiero v. Richardson, Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, Califano v. Goldfarb, Duren v. Missouri, and Edwards v. Healy, according to the ACLU's website.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where she stayed for 13 years. Bill Clinton then appointed her to be a Supreme Court justice in 1993.

Ginsburg broke glass ceilings and created opportunities for women in the United States that weren't offered before. She was a trailblazer for gender equality and an essential advocate for women's rights. Her death sparked a political debate about justice and fairness, something Ginsburg fought for her entire life.

May her memory be a blessing.

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