Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Life in Pictures

The second woman to sit on the Supreme Court and a tireless champion of social justice died on Sept. 18, 2020, at age 87. Look back at her remarkable life in photos

01 of 21
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Born Joan Ruth Bader to Celia and Nathan Bader in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was instilled with a lifelong passion for learning by her homemaker mother, who died on the eve of the future Supreme Court justice's high school graduation, having set aside $8,000 for her to attend college. (Ginsburg didn't need it; she had earned enough scholarships to pay her way.)

She's pictured here in her senior year at Cornell in 1953, after announcing her engagement to Martin Ginsburg.

02 of 21
ruth bader ginsberg
Collection Of THe Supreme Court Of The United States

As a newlywed with Martin during his service in Ft. Still, Oklahoma.

03 of 21
Marty and Ruth with Baby Jane home movie_preview

Martin and Ruth welcomed two children together, Jane (pictured here in a home video still circa 1955) and son James. Ruth raised them while attending law school at Harvard — and caring for Martin as he battled testicular cancer.

Upon Martin's graduation, he received a job in New York; Ruth transferred to Columbia, but despite graduating at the top of her class, she could not find a law firm job or clerkship anywhere. She finally got a job as a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1963, having to hide her second pregnancy until her job was secure.

04 of 21
The Ginsburgs. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

In 2016, Ruth wrote about parenting her children while juggling her professional obligations, "My success in law school, I have no doubt, was in large measure because of baby Jane. I attended classes and studied diligently until 4 in the afternoon; the next hours were Jane's time, spent at the park, playing silly games or singing funny songs, reading picture books and A. A. Milne poems, and bathing and feeding her," Ginsburg wrote in the Times.

"After Jane's bedtime, I returned to the law books with renewed will. Each part of my life provided respite from the other and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates trained only on law studies lacked."

05 of 21
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In the late 1960s, Ginsburg began making her name by taking on cases of gender discrimination, starting with an unmarried man in Colorado who hoped to claim an IRS tax credit for taking care of his elderly mother, but was unable to as it was reserved for women or divorced men. Ginsburg argued to apply the statute equally to both sexes and won her case.

In 1971, she first brought a case to the Supreme Court, Reed vs. Reed, which argued that women should be equally considered as executors of estates, and won. It was the start of many gender equality cases she would become known for.

06 of 21
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Ginsburg gave Martin (in the U.S. Virgin Islands with their children) much credit for her success, writing in the New York Times, "I have had more than a little bit of luck in life, but nothing equals in magnitude my marriage to Martin D. Ginsburg. I do not have words adequate to describe my supersmart, exuberant, ever-loving spouse." His willingness to bolster her career (and cook for their family) was something she was publicly very grateful for.

07 of 21
ruth bader ginsburg
AP Photo/Dennis Cook/Shutterstock

On vacation in Egypt with her family in 1985.

08 of 21
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Martin Ginsburg
The Ginsburgs. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

The couple during a tropical vacation.

09 of 21
SCOTUS Ruth Bader Ginsburgh 1993, Washington, USA
Marcy Nighswander/AP/REX/Shutterstock

After being nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, the court's second-ever female appointee interviewed with senators including Joe Biden (right). She would eventually be confirmed 96 to 3 and join Sandra Day O'Connor as one of two female Supreme Court justices.

10 of 21
ruth bader ginsberg
President Bill Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg walk outside the White House in 1993. DAVID AKE/Getty Images

Ginsburg with President Clinton on the way to the Rose Garden in June 1993 for the announcement of her Supreme Court appointment.

11 of 21
Supreme Court Cooking, Washington, USA
Marcy Nighswander/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Ginsburg was sworn in by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in August 1993 as President Clinton looked on.

12 of 21
ruth bader ginsberg
Doug Mills/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Ginsburg brought her family, including her two grandchildren Paul and Clara Spera, to her swearing-in ceremony. She is survived by her children, four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

13 of 21
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders/Contour/Getty

Sitting for a portrait for the New York Times in 1997.

14 of 21
ruth bader ginsberg
Annie Groer/Getty images

Her relationship with Martin remained something she was proud of until his death in 2010.

15 of 21
Pelosi Women's History, Washington, USA
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/REX/Shutterstock

By 2010, Ginsburg was one of three women on the Supreme Court, alongside Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor (pictured at a Women's History Month event in 2015).

"People ask me, 'But when do you think there will be enough [female justices]?'" Ginsburg once said. "I say, well, when there are nine! And people are aghast. We've had nine men for most of the country's history and no one thought that … there was anything wrong with that."

16 of 21
ruth bader ginsberg
Pat Greenhouse/Getty Images

She was honored with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard in 2011 — and a special serenade from Placido Domingo, a thrill for the lifelong opera fan.

17 of 21
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Supreme Court justice greeted President Barack Obama before his State of the Union address in 2012.

18 of 21
CNN Films/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.

In her last decade, Ginsburg became a pop culture icon, drawing acclaim for her tough workout regimen and no-nonsense attitude about, well, everything. She was the subject of a documentary, RBG, and a film staring Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex.

19 of 21

Though a champion of liberal causes, Ginsburg was known for maintaining strong friendships with those with opposing views, including conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote a tribute to her in 2015.

20 of 21
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Shannon Finney/Getty Images

Despite facing health battles in her final few years (she overcame cancer five times and never missed a day on the Supreme Court bench), Ginsburg worked up until the end, voting with the Supreme Court through June and speaking in public, including at this event in February 2020.

21 of 21
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Ginsburg left behind a tremendous legacy, from her groundbreaking work to advance gender equality to her memorably sharp dissenting opinions (and the collars she specifically wore when she dissented). As her strength waned, Ginsburg told her granddaughter Clara Spera, "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed." (That wish was not granted, as then-President Donald Trump's new appointee Amy Coney Barrett was approved by the Senate in record time.)

As people mourned her on social media, many shared this famous quote that most summed up her life's work: "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made."

Related Articles