Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Life in Pictures
The second woman to sit on the Supreme Court and a tireless champion of social justice died Friday at age 87. Look back at her remarkable life in photos
Born Joan Ruth Bader to Celia and Nathan Bader in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 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.
As a newlywed with Martin during his service in Ft. Still, Oklahoma.
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 his graduation, he received a job in New York; she 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 in 1963, having to hide her second pregnancy until her job was secure.
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.”
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.
Ginsburg gave Marty (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.
On vacation in Egypt with her family in 1985.
The couple is pictured during a tropical vacation.
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.
Ginsburg walks with President Clinton on the way to the Rose Garden in June 1993 for the announcement of her Supreme Court appointment.
Ginsburg is sworn in by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in August 1993 as President Clinton looks on.
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.
Ginsburg sits for a portrait for the New York Times in 1997.
Her relationship with Marty remained something she was proud of until his death in 2010.
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."
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.
The Supreme Court judge greets President Barack Obama before his State of the Union in 2012.
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.
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 Feb. 2020.
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." And 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.”