12 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes That Will Inspire You To Never Stop Resisting
March 15 is a certain beloved Justice's 84th birthday, and there's no better way to celebrate her incredible life and work than with her own words. Born in 1933, this famous SCOTUS member has seen the world change so much, and seems to have always had an eloquent response to it. These Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes will inspire the resistance to keep fighting so that, like her, we can overcome.
Known as "the notorious RBG" to her fans, Bader Ginsburg was born to a working-class Jewish family in Brooklyn in 1933. Despite her obvious brilliance (she graduated first in her class at Cornell and Harvard Law), she faced gender discrimination due to the misogyny of the era. She balanced being a mother and the first female president of the Harvard Law Review, and went on to become an integral part of the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project before being appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Carter in 1980. As the second woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993, Ginsburg has been a champion of civil rights throughout her entire career. There's so much to admire about this accomplished woman, and her own statements speak volumes about the type of life and career she's had, as well as what this generation of civil rights fighters can learn from her.
1. She Wrote A Moving Essay About The Holocaust As A Teenager
In 1946, just a year after after the end of World War II and the Holocaust that it spurred, Ginsburg (who still had her maiden name, Bader) was only 13 years old. That year, she wrote an amazing essay about the horrors of the Holocaust and how the war affected the world around her. The essay was revealed in Ginsburg's 2016 book of essays, titled My Own Words. The entire thing is worth reading, but this portion is particularly succinct:
Yet, dare we be at ease? We are part of a world whose unity has been almost completely shattered. No one can feel free from danger and destruction until the many torn threads of civilization are bound together again. We cannot feel safer until every nation, regardless of weapons or power, will meet together in good faith, the people worthy of mutual association.
2. She Doesn't Want Our Generation To Forget The Facts
In a 2014 interview with The New Republic, Ginsburg expressed some worry about our generation's apparent lack of understanding about the fact that women still aren't in our constitution. Given the current president's alleged misogyny, this lack of constitutional representation is all the more important to fix:
One thing that concerns me is that today’s young women don’t seem to care that we have a fundamental instrument of government that makes no express statement about the equal citizenship stature of men and women. They know there are no closed doors anymore, and they may take for granted the rights that they have.
3. She Has Some Good Ideas About A Woman's Place
Ginsburg knows a thing or two about being a woman — while at Harvard Law, Ginsburg and her handful of female classmates were accused of taking up spots that could have gone to men. In spite of that kind of treatment, Ginsburg went all the way to the second-highest judicial position in the country, and in the wake of the stunningly male makeup of the executive and legislative branches, her advice from a 2009 New York Times interview is still so timely:
I always thought that there was nothing an antifeminist would want more than to have women only in women’s organizations, in their own little corner empathizing with each other and not touching a man’s world. If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.
4. Her Dissenting Opinion On The Voting Rights Act Gutting Is Spot-On
In her dissenting opinion in the court's 2013 decision to roll back some protections from the Voting Rights Act, Ginsburg proved why protecting voting rights in areas where they are more likely to be challenged isn't just a worthy cause, but a necessary one. Many states introduced legislation that seemed intent on reducing minority voting access — and those laws may have shaped the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Just as buildings in California have a greater need to be earthquake proofed, places where there is greater racial polarization in voting have a greater need for prophylactic measures to prevent purposeful race discrimination.
5. Her Comments On This Ruling Show Why Individual Religious Beliefs Shouldn't Be Pushed Onto Others
Ginsburg's 2014 interview with the New Republic was full of gems, including her reasoning behind her dissenting vote and opinion in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby case of that same year. The famous and controversial case saw a 5-4 ruling in favor of the craft store chain's right to refuse to pay for health insurance coverage for some forms of birth control despite the Affordable Care Act's mandate that all birth control must be covered. With reproductive health attacks at an all-time high, her comments still ring true:
No one who is in business for profit can foist his or her beliefs on a workforce that includes many people who do not share those beliefs.
6. Her Post-Citizens United Comments Are Eerily True Now
In a 2015 interview with the Guardian, Ginsburg got to the root of her opposition to the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling, in which the court ruled 5-4 in favor of a conservative group and found that campaign finance laws barring them from airing an attack ad on Hillary Clinton in 2008 infringed on their First Amendment rights. Given that the president just hired yet another Goldman Sachs banker, her comment seems uncanny now.
I think our system is being polluted by money.
7. Her Speech At The Holocaust Memorial Museum Speaks To The Civil Rights Of All Races, Genders, And Creeds
On the 2004 Holocaust Day of Remembrance, Ginsburg gave a moving speech at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that not only decried the anti-Semitism of the Holocaust era, but also the legalized bigotry and discrimination that our country enacted as well. With seemingly Islamophobic orders coming down from the White House and a sharp rise in anti-Semitic threats, it couldn't be more timely — especially in comparison to our new president's statement on the 2017 Holocaust Day of Remembrance.
I was fortunate to be a child, a Jewish child, safely in America during the Holocaust. Our nation learned from Hitler’s racism and, in time, embarked on a mission to end law-sanctioned discrimination in our own country. In the aftermath of World War II, in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, in the burgeoning Women’s Rights movement of the 1970s, "We the People" expanded to include all of humankind, to embrace all the people of this great nation. Our motto, E Pluribus Unum, of many one, signals our appreciation that we are the richer for the religious, ethnic, and racial diversity of our citizens.
8. Her Love And Work Advice Could Serve Us Well In The Age Of Alternative Facts
On her wedding day, Ginsburg's mother-in-law gave her a piece of advice (along with a pair of earplugs) that serve as an excellent reminder when dealing with Twitter trolls, presidential advisers, and sometimes, the president himself:
Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf. ... That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with my marriage, but in dealing with my colleagues.
9. Her Stance On Educating Fellow Justices Could Help Oppressed People Who Teach Allies
In this 2015 Bloomberg interview, Ginsburg offers excellent advice not only on dealing with more-privileged colleagues, but also why sometimes educating our allies is useful.
I was a law school teacher. And that’s how I regard my role here with my colleagues, who haven’t had the experience of growing up female and don’t fully appreciate the arbitrary barriers that have been put in women’s way.
10. She Insisted That Poor Women Be Central In The Fight For Reproductive Justice
The aforementioned Times article from 2009 also provided the resistance with an excellent reason to center poor women in the fight for women's rights — because they are the ones hurt most by anti-choice legislation than women who can afford to travel to get abortions or ship in birth control.
Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that changed their abortion laws before Roe are not going to change back. So we have a policy that only affects poor women, and it can never be otherwise.
11. Her Least Favorite SCOTUS Ruling Has A Lot To Do With Our Current Political Climate
Once again, RBG's New Republic interview serves as the basis for another important point. Speaking again about the 2010 Citizens United ruling, Ginsburg commented about the court's controversial ruling in favor of the conservative group that used their financial means to seemingly influence elections. Given how rich the president and his cabinet are, the concept that the rich shouldn't be able to use their money to swing elections or gain seats is even more important now:
If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.
12. Her Pre-Election Remarks About Trump Could Serve Us In Dealing With Our Twitter-Happy President
Prior to the election, Ginsburg's adeptly assessed the then-candidate's character — and caught the ire of Trump himself. Given that the president started the March 15 beefing with Snoop Dogg, it seems that her assessment was correct:
He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego.
Ginsburg is truly a national treasure, and her long career fighting in the courts for equal rights is a goldmine for activists looking to previous generations for inspiration in this newfound fight to protect our rights and the rights of others.