Joan Ruth Bader was born on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, raised by Nathan and Celia Bader. She was the youngest on two children where her eldest late sister was diagnosed with meningitis, when Joan was 14-months old. Joan would change her name to Ruth, as it was easier to identify her in her classroom without a lot of children named Joan.
Ruth Bader valued school, which was derived by her mother’s influence that taught her the significance in education. Her mother did not graduate college but worked full-time at a garment factory to help aid Ruth’s old brother’s college education, a lesson instilled to young Ginsburg. She enjoyed school as she excelled in all her classes with remarkable grades and was heavily involved in student activities. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away only a few days before Ruth’s high school graduation ceremony, where she would continue her academic career to Cornell University.
Ginsburg would continue to receive excellent grades at Cornell, earning high honors in Government and distinction in all subjects. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1954. She married Dr. Martin Ginsburg from Cornell, and they both have two children. Afterwards, she reconsidered school again and continued to attend Harvard Law School.
While at Harvard, Ginsburg was only one of nine women in a class of 500 students, according to womenshistory.org. During her college career at Harvard, she was not taken seriously as Ginsburg and her female colleagues were considered comic relief and were constantly asked to explain how it felt taking a spot in the program instead of a man. She was constantly harassed and were even excluded from using certain sections of the library. Eventually, she transferred to Columbia Law School in 1958 and received both Harvard and Columbia Law review.
Ginsburg graduated from Columbia in 1958, however, her experience at Harvard begins to precede after graduation as it was difficult for her to find employment. She landed a position a year after graduating as a law clerk for the Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri.
During her 10-year tenure, she became a research associate for the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure, until she was promoted to associate director. She would continue this for a year and would eventually become Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law. She taught classes until 1972, and during her time teaching, she was involved with American Civil Liberties Union and demonstrated great success as she was central to the founding of their Women’s Rights Project in 1971, according to Womenshistory.org.
In 1980, she was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court. It was thirteen years later until she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve on the Supreme Court, where she would become the second women in history to serve.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg demonstrated tremendous adversity during her tenure as her experience with gender discrimination shaped her passion for justice. Her accolades are a tall order to reach, as she spent her career as an advocate, fighting for women’s rights. In 1996, she wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, stating that qualified women could not be denied admission to Virginia Military Institute based on discrimination. She broke the tradition of a male-dominant environment in law and government, and her attitude is that “major change should not come from the courts, but from Congress and other legislatures.