The nation mourned the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18. Ginsburg was a trailblazer and women’s rights advocate. She battled cancer four times, beginning with lung cancer in 1999 and ending in her death from pancreatic cancer in 2020. She died at the age of 87.
Appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg was only the second woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, after Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981.
Dr. Amy Stumpf, professor of society and religion, said she finds it hard to believe the U.S. did not have a woman on the supreme court until the ‘80s.
“When Americans say women and minorities have equal rights and full access they obviously haven’t looked at a SCOTUS roster,” Stumpf said.
Ginsburg was a major advocate for women’s rights, voicing her opinion on issues such as the legality of abortion and gender discrimination.
One of the examples of this was her authorship of the court’s decision to strike down the male-only admission policy at the public university Virginia Military Institute in United States v. Virginia (1996).
Dr. Chase Porter, U.S. history professor, said the loss of Ginsburg goes beyond a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
“Her tireless work on women’s equality means that many look to her as an embodiment of the liberal vision of equality for all,” Porter said. “People genuinely believed in her advocacy of that vision, and are thus saddened to lose one of its staunchest champions.”
Even before her appointment to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg was challenging cases that questioned the role of women in the workplace. She contributed to or led more than 60 cases surrounding gender-based discrimination.
Amanda Kurowski, senior intercultural studies major, said her reaction to Ginsburg’s death was one of pure devastation.
“She was an icon, a giant among men and the backbone to the majority of women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights in this country,” Kurowski said. “She has to be remembered but she has to be followed. We have to continue fighting for the rights of people everywhere and continue to elevate the oppressed in this country.”
Stumpf said it was important to appreciate and acknowledge Ginsburg’s expertise.
“I appreciate her mastery of the law,” Stumpf said. “She knew the Constitution, the law and she loved this country and modeled dignified service. She also modeled how to be civil in the midst of disagreement.”
Ginsburg’s death has created a vacancy on the Supreme Court. President Donald J. Trump is expected to nominate a replacement, which will need the confirmation of the Senate.