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Of all of the important historical documents that the National Archives holds, why this document?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