Reflecting On Powerful Women In My Life
Ruth Bader Ginsburg March 15, 1933 – September 18, 2020
I was deeply saddened by the death of one of the most AMAZING women in United States history, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on September 18, 2020 due to complications from pancreatic cancer at the age of 87.
At Amazing Over 40, we will pay tribute to those women who have made huge impacts on women both with regard to health and wellness as well as financial equity and gender equality. Judge Ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the Supreme court, the first being Sandra Day O’Connor. Her votes of rulings and dissents propelled feminist causes and rights over the past 50 years, helping to shape how women are seen in the United States.
Here is a list of some (and NOT all) of her amazing accomplishments:
- In 1954, graduated first in her class at Cornell University.
- Enrolled in Harvard Law School and was only 1 of 9 women in a class of over 500 students.
- In 1958, transferred to Columbia Law School and tied for first in her graduation class of 1958.
- Was professor at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School, teaching civil procedure as one of the few women in her field.
- In 1970 she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), participating in over 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974.
- In 1980 was selected by President Jimmy Carter to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
- In 1993 was nominated to the Supreme Court replacing retiring Justice Byron White.
- In 1996, authored a ground-breaking decision mandating the admission of women into the Virginia Military Institute – erasing a 157 -year tradition of all male schooling supported by state funds.
- In 2007, objected to a ruling regarding unequal pay caused by discrimination, a case filed by Lilly Ledbetter, the sole female supervisor at a tire plant in Gadsden, Alabama. Later in 2008 President Barack Obama, signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.
- In 2015 - Named one of Time’s magazine’s top 100 most influential people.
Judge Ginsburg’s upbringing was also quite interesting and inspiring. Joan Ruth Bader was born the second daughter of a Jewish immigrant and raised in a striving working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Her father became a furrier and a haberdasher. Her mother graduated from high school at the age of 15. Instead of furthering her education, she was forced to be a garment worker to pay for her brother’s education at Cornell. Like most women in that generation, she married young and had 2 daughters, Marilyn and Joan, changing her name to Ruth because of so many “Joans” in school at that time.
Judge Ginsburg credits her mother as being the most influential person instilling beliefs of courage and independence. She later stated, “It has always been that girls should have the same opportunity to dream, to aspire and achieve - to do whatever their God-given talents enable them to do - as boys.”
Upon reading of Judge Ginsburg’s passing, I noticed some parallels with regard to my mother, her background, achievements, and the values instilled in me. My mother was born in 1935 in Berlin, Germany and immigrated to the United States with my immigrant German father in 1959. They came to first settle in Delaware where my father received psychiatric training at the State’s Mental Hospital ultimately becoming a board-certified psychiatrist and moving to California.
Over this period of time, she raised four children, each born approximately one year apart. By the age of 27, she had four children under the age of 5. Growing up as the youngest, I found it difficult at times to have my needs met or listened to, but I always knew that my mother loved me, believed in me and held me dear to her heart. She instilled values of independence and perseverance in me, which she emulated by receiving her Ph.D in Psychology at UC Riverside and later teaching as a professor at UCLA.
My mother is now 85 years old and suffers from progressive dementia, living in a Board & Care facility in Oceanside, California. Previously, she lived in Mammoth Lakes, a beautiful area surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains where she enjoyed hiking the various trails and passes nestled in the John Muir Wilderness. I brought her down to San Diego in 2018, after 5 years of progressive mental and physical decline, to be closer to me and oversee her care.
Sadly, my mother can no longer walk and is confined to a wheelchair. She has lost her verbal ability to form sentences and wears protection for both urinary and bowel functions. It’s truly difficult to see my mother in this state- a state I know she would never have wished for.
Luckily, she is not in pain and is still eating, albeit with the assistance of her care-givers. I faithfully visit her every week, painting her nails and bringing mini-palmiers- one of her favorite pastries. Although she does not recognize me or call me by my name, I cherish the days that I can still spend with her, knowing that her time is very limited. Upon my last visit, I whispered, “Auf wiedersehen” in her ear. She then whispered in a soft, shaky voice, “Auf wiedersehen.” Tears swelled in my eyes as I waved good-bye.
Let us take the time to honor the amazing women in our lives that have formed history for us in so many ways - instilling the values that created the amazing individuals that we are today. May we give our fondest remembrances to Judge Ginsburg and all she has contributed to the women of our nation.
May she rest in peace.
In health and happiness,