WFC Stories of Care | Celebrating Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Pioneering Justice for Our Times

“Real change, enduring change happens one step at a time.”

– Notorious RBG, 2015

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A Quiet, Compassionate Agent of Radical Change

Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last Friday at the age of 87. She was an octogenarian leader considered to be a feminist icon and, to the end, she lived a purposeful life of accomplishment through mortal illnesses as well as painful personal losses. Well into her ‘70’s and ‘80’s, she worked on her ‘radical project” of bringing gender equality to all aspects of society under the legal rubric of the constitution.


“Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. September 18, 2020


For our WFC community, it is enlightening to ponder all that she accomplished when she ascended to the high court at age 60. Virtually all of her groundbreaking legal accomplishments occurred in her “senior years” and she was still gainfully employed last week at age 87.


  • Justice Ginsburg, at age 63, wrote the court’s majority opinion in the landmark VMI discrimination case where the court found that the all-male admissions policy of a state-supported military college was unconstitutional. 
  • And RBG was 74 when she dissented on the 5-4 Supreme Court decision that found against Lilly Ledbetter on a wage discrimination case vs. Goodyear. Less than two years later, Congress had voted to overturn what Justice Ginsburg called the court’s “parsimonious reading” of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, his very first bill signed into law.

Early Influences

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) was born to a Russian immigrant father and her mother was born just four months after her Eastern European parents arrived in America. The family-owned small retail stores, including a fur store and a hat shop. RBG grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn.


She credited her mother with giving her the confidence to pursue her ambitious life. This drive may have been fueled by her mother’s own truncated destiny. Celia Amster herself was a star student but was forced to drop her college ambitions. Her family needed to financially support her brother’s Cornell University tuition and Celia returned to work in the garment district.


The day before her mother was to see Ruth graduate from James Madison High School, she died from a 4-5-year bout with cancer. This seems to have steeled RBG’s determination to succeed and to see the elevation of women’s rights.


“I pray that I may be all that she would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve, and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”

-Ruth Bader Ginsberg, June 14, 1993 – President Clinton nominating her to Supreme Court


Her husband, Marty Ginsburg was also an early influence, both as a gender stereotype breaker and as a partner who supported Ruth’s rise to the top of her game. They met at Cornell University, subsequently married and had a baby girl. While Marty was at Harvard Law School, he had a bout with testicular cancer, and RGB sat in on his classes to provide notes that would make it possible for him to graduate on time. 


Meanwhile, she entered Harvard Law School a year later as only one of nine women in her class of 552 law students. She continued to take notes for Marty and tend to their daughter, Jane. However, Marty took on the lifelong role of being the family’s cook. According to her NYT obituary, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a “terrible” cook but husband Marty knew his way around the kitchen. Thus, began their fabled love story of mutual marital responsibilities. And RBG’s living out a life as an equal partner in the marriage.


Marty’s final words to Ruth at the end of their 56-year marriage are poignant. This note was left for her by his bedside in the final moments of 78-year-old Marty’s battle with cancer:


 “My dearest Ruth, You are the only person I have loved in my life, setting aside, a bit, parents and kids and their kids, and I have admired and loved you almost since the day we first met at Cornell. What a treat it has been to watch you progress to the very top of the legal world!”

A Moderate Jurist

Looking back on the feminist icon’s career, it surprises some to learn that RBG was not a left-wing firebrand. At least not in the beginning. She had issues with many of the landmark rulings that today define the roots of feminism.


“Roe vs. Wade was too far, too fast”

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the seminal 1973 Supreme Court decision


Instead, RBG sought to build consensus and stuck to a more Centrist approach with her opinions. Her famously close relationship with Associate Justice Scalia was illustrative. They were true colleagues and shared a passion for opera. Such was the stature and appeal of their friendship that it inspired a modern-day opera of its own: Scalia/Ginsburg, by Derrick Wang.


Asked whether she like her portrayal in the opera, RBG said:


“Oh yes, especially where I rescued Justice Scalia who was locked in a dark room for excessive dissenting.”

True Grit

Soon enough, RBG signed on as an ACLU attorney and became the leader of their Women’s Rights Project. Under her leadership, a body of groundbreaking cases followed which guaranteed constitutional protections against gender discrimination. Curiously, most of her clients were men seeking justice for what had become traditional women’s claims. She put her beliefs on the line defending these individuals’ rights that everyone should be on equal footing in our economy and our culture. 


“She was a force for equality for men as well as women.”

-Bill Clinton, CNN: September 20, 2020


Many of these cases, argued in front of the Supreme Court, highlight RBG’s most celebrated  arguments:

“I surely would not be in this room today without the determined efforts of men and women who kept dreams alive.

“Laws of this polity help to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.”


Back to the Sept. 19, 2020 NYT obituary:

“Her grit helped keep her on the bench though colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and Marty’s death.” 

Not surprisingly, she was back at work a day after he died.

Radical Project

As with all heroes, she has left behind a powerful and enduring legacy. Early in her career, RBG took on a legal study in Sweden where feminism was on the rise. It was a country “where everything and everyone works.” RBG absorbed the country’s egalitarian spirit and launched what would become her lifelong “radical project” to provide constitutional protections against gender discrimination.


The radical project became the cornerstone from which her reputation and legacy would be built. 


“Her legal legacy is even more sweeping. She brought her ‘radical project’ to the US Supreme court to erase the functional difference between men and women in society.”

New York Times Obituary, September 18, 2020

The Notorious RBG

Notorious RBG


RBG’s ascension to the highest country in the land, at age 60, happened midway through her storied career: she had 34 years under her belt of practicing the law when she became the junior Supreme Court justice in 1993 and just ended her tenure last Friday as the senior-most jurist with a 27-year record.


Against that backdrop consider just a few career and nationally historic milestones accomplished by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg:



Virginia Military Institute: the court had found that the all-male admissions policy of a state-supported military college was unconstitutional. By a disproportionate 7 to 1, Justice Ginsburg wrote and delivered the court’s majority opinion in the discrimination case:

  • “The state had failed to provide the “exceedingly persuasive justification” that the Constitution required for treating men and women differently.
  • “Generalizations about “the way women are,” estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”



Lilly Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company: Lilly Ledbetter sued Goodyear for pay discrimination, using differing standards for men than for women. The Supreme Court found against her, 5-4 because she had not filed her complaint within the statutory 180-day deadline from start-of-employment.

RBG wrote the dissent claiming that the statutory 180-day deadline should commence from the time Ledbetter became aware of the wage discrepancy, and not from the start-of-employment. She further urged that the matter be taken up by Congress arguing that it is a legislative issue require clarification in the law.

  • “The ball is in Congress’s court.” 

Barack Obama was elected in November 2008 and his very first bill signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act 

Congress had voted to overturn what Justice Ginsburg called the court’s “parsimonious reading” of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.



From the New York Times obituary:


  • A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.


Summing it all up, we are saddened by the loss of this inspiring champion of women’s rights. As Nina Totenberg of NPR, a close friend of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has said in media interviews over the weekend: “I’ll never meet anyone like her again in my lifetime.”


We feel lucky, indeed grateful, to have lived during the time of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and to continue living under the grace of her legal accomplishments. We are reminded that consensus-building should have a place in all that we do, and we are tickled that an 80-year-old woman can inspire a cultural movement like the “The Notorious RBG.”


Most of all, how reassuring is it to know that her major career accomplishments – the ones that are already in history books and will be taught in schools – happened when she was between 63 – 77 years old? Or, that she worked until the very end at 87? Yes, sisterhood is powerful but so is ELDERHOOD!


 “Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg


Westchester Family Care Inc. assists people of all ages, by customizing home care plans to maintain healthy quality of life and safety at home. 


Contact WFC for an immediate family need or when planning for future needs:, (914) 764-7500,


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