Notorious RBG Remembered

Today’s post remembers Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was adapted from a 2018 post when she visited the National Archives for a naturalization ceremony.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, affectionately known as RBG, was a frequent visitor and a good friend to the National Archives.

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 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Of all of the important historical documents that the National Archives holds, why this document?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 the Supreme Court of the United States, June 22, 1993. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Since that first visit, RBG has visited the National Archives on multiple occasions. In 2018, she addressed 31 newly naturalized citizens at the National Archives on the 227th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg addressed 31 newly naturalized citizens at the National Archives in Washington, DC, December 14, 2018. (National Archives)

In front of the Charters of Freedom, Ginsburg said, “Today, you join more than 20 million current citizens born in other lands who chose, as you have, to make the United States of America their home. We are a nation made strong by people like you: People who traveled long distances, overcame great obstacles, and made tremendous sacrifices—all to provide a better life for themselves and their families.”

Ginsburg also spoke of her own immigrant family, noting “As testament to our nation’s promise, the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants sits on the highest court in the land. In America, land of opportunity, that prospect is within the realm of the achievable.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020, at age 87. We will remember her.

2 thoughts on “Notorious RBG Remembered

  1. Most Honorable RBG will long be remembered for wit, grace, tactfulness, wisdom and light, we grieve because she has parted when we needed her most, we grieve because she was a ray of hope in a currently bleak world. We pray that we continue to strive in her place to make our nation a just nation for all, God Speed the Honorable RBG. 🌹🇺🇸⚖️🇺🇸🌹

  2. RBG made an amazing contribution to this country and will be forever remembered as a champion for womens rights. She was a woman that left some enormous shoes to fill. Her successor should read this article and find out what the standard for SCOTUS is in this country.

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