Notorious RBG at the National Archives

This year we have Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s returning to the National Archives on December 14, 2018, for our annual Bill of Rights Day naturalization ceremony. Today’s post comes from Danielle Sklarew in the National Archives History Office.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist swearing in Ruth Bader Ginsburg as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court while President Bill Clinton and her husband, Martin Ginsburg, look on, 8/10/1993. (National Archives Identifier 3144719)

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited the National Archives on August 26, 1993—16 days after she was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court—there was one document that Acting Archivist of the United States Trudy Peterson wanted her to see: the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.

Ginsburg looks over documents with Acting Archivist Trudy Peterson during her visit to the National Archives, August 26, 1993. (Records of the National Archives)

Of all of the important historical documents that the National Archives holds, why this document?

The answer lies in Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s long history of using her incredibly skillful legal mind to fight for gender equality. The successes she had in cases that helped benefit women is what propelled her onto the highest court in the country.

Ginsburg was very familiar with the highest Federal court when she was nominated. She had argued six cases before the Supreme Court, all of them concerning gender discrimination. Ginsburg’s arguments in front of the court were instrumental in creating precedents that advanced gender equality in the United States.

Early in her legal career, while a law professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, she wrote to Congressman Emanuel Celler, encouraging him to vote in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Letter from Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Professor of Law, Rutgers Unive
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s letter supporting the ERA, 4/15/1971. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

As she fought valiantly for women’s rights, her hard work was recognized by President Jimmy Carter. Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980 as part of his efforts to increase representation of women and people of color in the justice system.

Ginsburg excelled in this job, enough so that 13 years later, President Bill Clinton recognized her value and appointed her to the United States Supreme Court in 1993. Ginsburg became the second woman in history to become a Supreme Court Justice, after Sandra Day O’Connor.

President Bill Clinton’s nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, June 22, 1993. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Today, the 85-year-old Ginsburg remains on the Supreme Court, having survived two bouts of cancer. She is even the subject of two recent movies. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy, however, will always be tied to her work in the realm of gender equality and fighting for the rights of women.

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, which commemorates the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. For more information on events and resources at the  National Archives, visit our Bill of Rights Day website


4 thoughts on “Notorious RBG at the National Archives

  1. What a well-written article honoring RBG for her outstanding legacy and acknowledging her unique achievements!

  2. Very nice post – and great use of NARA holdings to show the importance of Government records and the role they play in understanding the American experience and our democracy.

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