By Carrie Pinkard
“Nice girls didn’t file lawsuits. Nice girls don’t speak up. Nice girls don’t make demands.”
These are the words of Sharron Frontiero, one of the many women Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped during her lifelong legal career.
Luckily for us, by these standards, Ginsburg was not a nice girl. She was a tireless champion for women’s rights. She fought to ensure women and men were treated equally under the law. Frontiero’s case in 1973 was the first RBG argued in front of the Supreme Court.
Frontiero was a lieutenant in the Air Force who filed for a housing stipend for her and her husband, but was denied because she was a woman. Her male colleagues in the Air Force were given housing stipends for themselves and their wives, but she was treated differently.
Ginsburg won the case, and she used her argument before the court as a chance to point out the many injustices women faced based on their gender. This is when she quoted Sarah Grimke in saying, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
Ginsburg devoted much of her life to metaphorically prying men’s shoes off women’s necks. She won five of the six women’s rights cases she argued in front of the Supreme Court in the 1970s. She said she saw herself as a kindergarten teacher in those days. Many men didn’t understand or care that women were treated differently. They were more than happy with the status quo. But Ginsburg used her intellect, passion for the law, and sheer force of will to make them see the injustices. One of her tactics was taking on cases where men were disadvantaged under the law. Shifting this perspective showed the men in power how gender-based discrimination hurt everyone.
In 1993, Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton. During her time on the court, she became “notorious” for her dissenting opinions. These opinions regularly supported women and minority groups. She fought until her death for what she believed in.
RBG was a strong, smart, formidable woman. She graduated top of her class from law school while raising her daughter and taking care of her ailing husband. She persevered even though not a single law firm in New York city would hire her as a lawyer. Despite having doors constantly shut in her face and years of condescension, she rose to the highest legal office in the United States.
RBG was a powerhouse. She is the reason women are able to live and work how they do today. Her legacy lives on in every little girl who sees it’s possible to pursue her dream career. It lives on in every woman who promotes and lifts up the work of her sisters. RBG’s career shows just how much progress can be made in one woman’s lifetime. It’s a testimony to the impact an individual can have when they’re determined to make a difference.
We wanted to take a moment today to raise our teacups to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We want to thank her for her work, her wise words, and for being the blueprint for progressive change and equality. So cheers to the Notorious R.B.G. and cheers to you, reader. Because when women stick together we will triumph. When we stick together we can continue to shatter glass ceilings. And that’s something worth fighting for.