Ruth Bader Ginsburg
President Bill Clinton chose Ruth Bader Ginsburg as his first appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York. She was the second daughter born to Nathan and Celia Bader. Sadly, Ginsburg's older sister died before she started school, leaving Ruth as an only child. The Brooklyn neighborhood in which the Baders lived consisted mostly of poor, working class Jewish, Italian, and Irish immigrants. Celia Bader taught her daughter Ruth, whom she called 'Kiki,' the value of independence and a good education. Ginsburg heeded her mother's advice and worked diligently in school. Her classmates remembered her in varying ways. Some recalled her beauty and popularity, which led to her selection to the twirling squad. Others remembered her as overly competitive, even to the point of annoyance. A secret hidden to all her classmates at the time was the fact that Celia Bader suffered from cancer during Ruth's high school years. Celia Bader passed away a day before her daughter's graduation ceremony. Ruth did not attend a "Forum of Honor" to which she was invited for graduating sixth in her class. Celia Bader left Ruth a relatively large sum of eight thousand dollars for her college tuition. Ginsburg, however, earned enough scholarships by that time to support herself. She gave most of the money to her father.
Ginsburg attended Cornell University after graduating from high school. There, she began dating Martin Ginsburg, who would become her husband. Their undergraduate years were uneventful. Martin enrolled at Harvard Law School upon his graduation while Ruth completed her senior year at Cornell. Halfway through the year, Martin received his draft notice. Ruth graduated first in her class from Cornell and the young couple married before moving to Fort Sill, in Lawton, Oklahoma, where Martin was stationed to serve in the Army. After Martin's discharge from the Army two years later, the couple returned to Harvard, where Ruth Ginsburg also enrolled in law school.
Ruth Ginsburg attended Harvard at a difficult time. In the era of harsh grillings by professors using the Socratic method, Ruth Ginsburg and her fellow women students found the school extremely hostile. At one point, Dean Erwin Griswold asked the women of the class what it felt like to occupy places that could have gone to deserving men. Still, Ginsburg overcame the derision and excelled academically. She received high grades and earned a position with the law review. Crisis struck when Martin developed testicular cancer and required extensive treatment with radiation and surgery. Ginsburg attended to her preschool daughter and her ill husband while maintaining her studies. She attended class for her husband and typed his papers as he dictated every word. After a difficult struggle, Martin recovered. He graduated from law school and accepted a position in a New York law firm. Ruth Ginsburg transferred from Harvard to Columbia Law School to continue her study. She made law review, becoming the first woman to achieve the honored position at two major schools. After a year at Columbia, Ginsburg graduated at the top of her class.
The years following her graduation from law school were spent in academic endeavors. Ginsburg worked for a few years as a research associate at Columbia Law School before joining the faculty at Rutgers University Law School in 1963. Ginsburg worked during this time to advance several feminist causes. While at Rutgers, she battled for maternity leave rights for schoolteachers in New Jersey. She also began an active participation in the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1972, Ginsburg became the first woman hired with tenure at Columbia Law School. She also became the first director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project that same year.
Ginsburg's star continued to rise as she joined many important committees and boards in various law associations across the country. During this time, she also began appearing before the Supreme Court where she would eventually argue a total of six cases for women's rights. After a brief stint as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California, Ginsburg President Jimmy Carter nominated Ginsburg to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit. She served as a federal appeals judge from 1981 until President Clinton nominated her to succeed retiring Justice Byron R. White. Clinton, impressed by Ginsburg's life story, praised her for her efforts in advancing women's rights.
While leaning towards the liberal side of the Court's political spectrum, Ginsburg has not hesitated to vote with her conservative colleagues. Ginsburg has shown a continuing willingness to promote women's rights from the High Court. Unlike other justices, Ginsburg relishes the opportunity to address the public in speeches, delivering her views eloquently and with a deep sense of commitment. There is little doubt that Ginsburg's position on women's rights, and civil liberties in general, will play an important role in many controversial issues to come.