Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 died Friday of complications from cancer. Serving on the Supreme Court since 1993, Ginsburg was one of Cornell’s most notable alumnae, recently transformed into a liberal cultural icon, commonly known as “Notorious RBG” to her following. She was 87 and passed away in her home in Washington, surrounded by family.
The second woman appointed to the country’s highest court, Ginsburg attributed many of her life’s influences to her experiences at Cornell when she returned to Ithaca in 2014, according to a 2014 University press release: Her writing was influenced by English professor Vladimir Nabokov, her respect for the first and fifth amendment was cultivated by her college research and even her husband, Marty Ginsburg ’53, was a Cornellian, too.
After graduating from Cornell, Ginsburg attended Harvard Law School as one of nine female attendees before transferring to Columbia Law School, according to her Oyez profile. In 1959, she graduated first in her class.
Aside from her demonstrated academic excellence, Ginsburg also worked as a law clerk, professor and worked for the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union before beginning her tenure after her appointment by President Clinton.
The “notorious RBG,” as she is known to her contemporary fans, was respected across the aisle and was famously friends with late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative judge.
Recently, the Justice has re-emerged into the spotlight. In 2018, two large films — the documentary “RBG” by CNN Films and the movie “On the Basis of Sex” — were released, highlighting her life. Merchandise ranging from stickers to earrings are sold with her likeness.
On campus, many groups still expressed ties to the esteemed Cornellian over the years. When the alumna fell and fractured her ribs in November 2018, students on campus created a cheeky “Point to the sky and yell ‘GET WELL SOON RBG.’” event in support, The Sun reported. Judicial collars worn by Ginsburg were on display in the “Women Empowered: Fashions From the Frontline” exhibit in December 2018, The Sun reported.
Much of her support stems from the progressive views that the Justice held, and the steady liberal stances she held. Some of her most notable court writings involved women’s rights for abortion and equal pay.
With her death at age 87, Ginsburg leaves the court with five conservative and three liberal justices remaining, and another seat open for another nomination by President Donald Trump. This nominee, if confirmed, will be Trump’s third pick for the bench.
The last nomination process — which confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh — was criticized by Ginsburg as a “highly partisan show,” according to the Washington Times.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, when asked when there would be enough female justices on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg — the second female supreme court justice and a feminist known for her calculated legal arguments and stepwise progressiveness — replied: “when there are nine.”