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RBG: A Historic Figure and Champion of Women’s Rights

By: Jess Barfield

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) was a larger-than-life figure, like other UTK students, I looked up to and admired her, and I was inspired by her accomplishments and toughness. In fact, as an 11-year old, I once wrote her a short letter since I was learning about Supreme Court Justices in school; in response, I received a letter back which I framed and placed on my nightstand and which has traveled with me as I’ve moved across the country.

I would like to highlight some of RBG’s many accomplishments starting with the fact that she persevered in the face of consistent discrimination in the then male-dominated legal profession. In spite of being the subject of gender discrimination, she was a brilliant student, for example, after she transferred from Harvard law school to be with her husband she graduated first in her class in 1959 from Columbia law school.

While eventually being offered a position as a law professor, Ginsburg directed the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s. With this position, she litigated cases fighting against gender discrimination and argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Perhaps her main contribution to U.S. jurisprudence was the majority and minority opinions she wrote as a Supreme Court Justice. For example, in 1996, Ginsburg wrote for the majority in United States v. Virginia, holding that qualified women could not be denied admission to Virginia Military Institute. And we all recall “hanging chads” in the Bush versus Gore presidential election. In Bush v. Gore, RBG wrote a brilliant dissent for the case which determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential race. And in a case dealing with discrimination, RBG wrote the majority opinion in Olmstead v. L.C. a case that dealt with the rights of people with mental disabilities to live in their communities (under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)). I could go on-and-on reciting RBG’s many accomplishments, but software offered by UTK’s Adam Brown Social Media Command Center can better convey our sentiments toward RBG. Looking at the volume of posts with RBG as a search word for the last 7 days, generated the following diagram. As an interpretation, in the U.S. alone there has been an 8.1 thousand percent increase in posts about RBG. The word cloud for the last 7 days also shows the trending topics associated with RBG; justice, not surprisingly, being one of them.