“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
There aren’t words to describe the enormity of my feelings for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the depth of my sadness with her passing. Thanks to her courage and commitment to justice our daughters can open a checking account, or buy a house without a male co-signer. They can have a job and not be discriminated against because of their gender. With her dissent (and call to action) in the pay discrimination case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., she helped women make strides toward equal pay. Ultimately, Justice Ginsburg taught our daughters to fight for what they believe in, and demonstrated – with every decision – to little girls everywhere that women can and do belong in all places where decisions are being made.
Justice Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union in 1972, and built her legacy by chipping away at inequalities – large and small. She understood constitutional equality was an ongoing project, and later in her life said she did not fight for “women’s rights,” but for “the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.”
Just hours after her death, Barack Obama aptly described that legacy, calling Ginsburg a champion of women’s rights in her battle to achieve equality and fulfill America’s potential as a nation. “For nearly three decades, as the second woman ever to sit on the highest court in the land, she was a warrior for gender equality — someone who believed that equal justice under law only had meaning if it applied to every single American.”
While she opened a number of doors for women, her work is not done. In fact, she clearly spelled out the current situation and her hope for the future, “One must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children, women’s earnings here and abroad trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. I am optimistic, however, that movement toward enlistment of the talent of all who compose ‘We, the people,’ will continue.”
Our responsibility, as we mourn her passing, is to follow her lead, continue her optimism, honor her memory, and continue the fight. As my friend Trudy Bourgeois said to me earlier this week, “We all need to lead from where we are.” That means today we need to look to one another, and work together to right wrongs. True gender equity still does not exist, and as we work towards it, we must be advocates for each other. We must raise our voices to speak up for the women whose voices may otherwise go unheard. We the people have work to do, and we’ll be the most effective if we do it together.