Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one incredibly tough woman. Ginsburg was one of the few members of recent Supreme Court benches who would have been a significant historical figure even absent her time on the nation’s highest court, due to her pioneering work in women’s legal rights through the 1970s.
In her 80s, as a survivor of two different kinds of cancer, her workouts became legendary, her will to live palpable in what she put herself through. And she knew the stakes of her death, dictating to her granddaughter in the final days of her life the statement: “My most fervent wish is that i I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, the second woman confirmed to the court after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. In recent years had become not just one of its most outspoken members but a feminist icon, often affectionately referred to as the Notorious RBG. Even the collars she wore with her judicial robes, with one in particular known as her “dissent collar,” became iconic.
Ginsburg was married to the late Martin Ginsburg, himself a successful tax attorney, who she met in college and married a month after her graduation from Cornell University. Marty Ginsburg died in 2010. The couple had two children, with daughter Jane following in her mother’s footsteps as a professor at Columbia Law School. RBG herself had been the first woman to receive tenure at the school.
The National Public Radio obituary of RBG offers a story she told from her time as a young mother, when her son’s school would call her frequently about minor trouble he was getting into. After suffering the interruptions for a while, there came a day when “I had stayed up all night the night before, and I said to the principal, 'This child has two parents. Please alternate calls.” It turned out that, faced with the prospect of calling a man, the school administrators found it wasn’t so urgent to contact a parent.
Her loss would be a subject of great sorrow at any time. Her loss less than two months before the election, with Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell itching to tip the Supreme Court to the far right for a generation, is a national tragedy.