Imagine graduating at the top of your class from Columbia Law School and not getting a job offer.
That was the case in 1959 for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had three strikes against her: She was Jewish. She was a woman. And perhaps worst of all for those times, she was the mother of a small child.
It’s also what may have changed the trajectory of her career. Only the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Ginsburg, who died Friday at 87, became a fierce proponent of diversity in the legal profession, a champion of gender equality and an iconic example of resilience in the face of institutional bias.
In a conversation last year with NPR’s Nina Totenberg, Ginsburg noted that she was forced to teach after law school graduation, which ultimately “gave me time to devote to the movement for evening out the rights of women and men.”
She recalled something that Sandra Day O’Connor once told her — that if women had been more welcome at law firms, “today we would be retired partners from some large law firm,” she said. “But because that route was not open to us, we had to find another way — and we both ended up on the United States Supreme Court.”
Here at The Story Exchange, we’re enormously indebted to Ginsburg. Her long battle for women’s equality laid the groundwork for women in the workplace and at home to fulfill their potential. As a women-led media company devoted to entrepreneurial women, we simply wouldn’t exist if Ginsberg had not paved the way for so many of us. We will mourn her passing, while continuing to highlight the achievements of remarkable women in the ongoing journey to full equality.
We will just do so with one less bright star guiding us.
Towering feminist icons are, unfortunately, hard to come by. Ginsburg’s final wish — to not be replaced until a new president is installed — remind us they are needed more than ever.
For more on the history of the women’s movement, from iconic figures like Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth all the way up to Shirley Chisholm and Nancy Pelosi, listen to the 3-part podcast series, “100 Years of Power.”