Paying Tribute to a Feminist Trailblazer

Remembering Justice Ginsburg

AAUW joins the country in mourning the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and paying tribute to her life and her legacy. Here’s what some of our nation’s leaders had to say about this pioneering jurist and iconic feminist role model. 

Every family in America benefited from her brilliant legacy and courage. Over the course of her quarter century as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became an icon, inspiring people around the world with her tenacity, towering intellect and devotion to the American promise of equality and opportunity for all. Her tireless advocacy in the fight for gender equality, whether working at the ACLU, arguing cases before the Supreme Court or authoring thoughtful and historic opinions and dissents as an Associate Justice, leaves an enduring legacy of progress for all women. Her opinions have unequivocally cemented the precedent that all men and women are created equal.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

“To me, as to countless others, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. As an attorney, she led the fight to grant women equal rights under the law. As a judge, she did justice every day–working to ensure that this country’s legal system lives up to its ideals and extends its rights and protections to those once excluded. And in both roles, she held to–indeed, exceeded–the highest standards of legal craft.” Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan

“For all who believe in the power of the law as a force for change, Justice Ginsburg will always be a titan. [She] was known to pose the question ‘What is the difference between a bookkeeper in the Garment District and a Supreme Court justice?’ Her answer: ‘One generation.’ She never forgot where she came from, or those who sacrificed to help her grow into the historic icon we all came to revere …In some of her final moments with her family, she shared her fervent wish to ‘not be replaced until a new President is installed.’ We will honor that wish.” Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg …. changed the way the world is for American women. For more than a decade, until her first judicial appointment in 1980, she led the fight in the courts for gender equality. When she began her legal crusade, women were treated, by law, differently from men. Hundreds of state and federal laws restricted what women could do, barring them from jobs, rights and even from jury service. By the time she donned judicial robes, however, Ginsburg had worked a revolution.” Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio

In her words

“When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough (women on the Supreme Court)?’ and my answer is: ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg was someone I had looked up to for a long time – as a young lawyer, and throughout my time practicing and teaching law. She believed that the Constitution had to be interpreted as providing for the equal rights of men and women. She understood that there were certain assumptions in the law that favored or disfavored men as well as women and had the brilliant insight that she could demonstrate that lack of equality by litigating on behalf of men. Her great gift was not only being a brilliant lawyer, litigator and judge, but also a warm and empathetic human being. She felt the loss of respect and rights that her clients felt. And she felt compelled to try to right those wrongs. Her memory is already a blessing. May it also be a call to continue her work for justice and equality under the law. Hillary Clinton

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a trailblazer for women’s rights, a fierce champion for equality, and an extremely accomplished American who broke countless barriers in the field of law. Throughout her life, Justice Ginsburg surmounted discrimination and sexism through her brilliance, tenacity, and wit, becoming one of the most prominent legal luminaries of our time.  Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine)

 “The name, [Notorious RGB] and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation. Young women had the image tattooed on their arms; daughters were dressed in RBG costumes for Halloween. “You Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth” appeared on bumper stickers and T-shirts. A biography, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” … reached the best-seller list the day after its publication…. Linda Greenhouse, New York Times

“Only someone so stubborn and single-minded, someone so in love with the work, could have accomplished what she did — as a woman, survived discrimination and loss; as a lawyer, compelled the Constitution to recognize that women were people; as a justice, inspired millions of people in dissent.” Irin Carmon, co-author of Notorious RBG

“For so many of us, Justice Ginsburg was a real-life superhero: a beacon of hope, a robed crusader who saved the day time and time again. Playing her on SNL was a profound joy because I could always feel the overwhelming love and gratitude that the audience had for her. It was one of the great honors of my life to meet Justice Ginsburg, to shake her hand, and to thank her for her lifetime of service to this country.” Kate McKinnon Saturday Night Live 

“Ginsburg’s vision of gender equality was decades ahead of her time. It went beyond just empowering women to compete for ‘men’s’ roles. While stereotypes distorted women’s view of what was possible, they also impeded men, no less trapped in gender-based assumptions. Equality meant that both sexes should be free to assume all of society’s roles without preconceptions. My son can be a caregiver; my daughter can be an executive.” Nancy Gertner, Harvard University Law Professor

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg devoted her life to the powerful premise that every person counts. She was a warrior for justice, equality, and democracy. Thanks to her, those who carry on these fights will have not only history, but also the law, on their side.” Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright