By Laura Shiesl Vega
Chair Elect, YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix

Pioneer for Women’s Rights, Equal Rights Activist, Dissenter, Highschool Valedictorian, First Female Member of the Harvard Law Review, Columbia Grad, Law Clerk, Professor, ACLU Attorney and General Counsel, Co-Founder of the Women’s Rights Project , Appellate Court Judge, First Jewish Woman Supreme Court Justice, First Woman to Lie in State at U.S. Capitol, Public Servant, Leader, Author, New Yorker, Opera-Lover, Daughter, Mother, Wife, Grandmother, Friend, Push-Up Guru, Role Model, Icon, SHERO, Our “Notorious RBG”!

As we take time to honor the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and watch her memorial services this week, many of us are reflecting on the impact that Ginsburg had on our own lives. Ginsburg devoted her entire legal career to the pursuit of equal justice and eliminating discrimination of all types.

Ginsburg’s lifelong work advanced justice with seminal decisions in the areas of sex discrimination, affirmative action, same-sex marriage, health care for all, the fight for equal pay, and the defense of women’s health rights. In her 27 years on the Supreme Court, she authored 483 majority opinions, concurrences, and dissents.

Ginsburg was a true trailblazer for women’s rights – she literally wrote the book how equality benefits everyone. Thanks to Ginsburg, women and men hold these rights: the ability for a woman to secure a mortgage without a man; a widower’s right to receive Social Security benefits from his late wife;  the right for a woman to have a credit card independent of a man; a military husband’s ability to be his wife’s dependent; the ability for women to attend all male university, and so many more.  Ginsburg held firm that sex discrimination hurt everyone and she changed public and legal opinion on the issue.

Ginsburg leaned heavily on her partnership at home to propel her success. Martin (Marty) was Ginsburg’s biggest booster and husband of 56 years.  Marty was very proud of his wife’s accomplishments and viewed his support not as a sacrifice but as what partners do for each other. Ginsburg credited Marty with her appointment to the High Court because it was Marty who tirelessly advocated for her candidacy. What a profound example of true partnership, sponsorship, and the critical importance of Allyship. 

Ginsburg also taught us that our differences should not define us but should bring us together. Her relationship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia was one of mutual respect. Although they loved a fierce debate, they were lifelong friends. Ginsburg taught us how to welcome differences and that advancing one’s dissenting opinion is essential to the greater good.

Ginsburg’s influence will be felt for generations.  I am the first lawyer in my own family and Ginsburg has served as an inspiration for my career and so many other female attorneys. My daughter and I visited the Supreme Court a couple of years ago. She will always remember that fall afternoon at the Court, and she knows doors are open for her because Ginsburg had the greatness to bend history itself.

Chief Justice John Roberts said it best:   “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature . . .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.”

Thank you, RBG!

Statements on this blog reflect the author’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix or YWCA USA. Blog entries are meant to spark individual reflection and community conversations on issues of racial justice and gender equality.