'Notorious RBG'

Selene Rapetti participated in our Think Global, Act Local 2022 programme. Selene writes about a social justice icon who inspires her.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a lawyer and an associate justice of the US Supreme Court who fought throughout all her life for gender equality and a more equal society for everybody.

From the beginning of her career, if not before it began, she suffered many types of discrimination. Despite this, she continued to fight for equality and managed to achieve significant changes in the US system.

When she began studying law at Harvard Law School, she found herself in a purely male environment that considered it normal to ask a woman admitted why she was occupying a man’s seat (she was one of nine women in a class of five hundred people). Despite the discrimination of her classmates and professors and her private life (she had a small child to take care of at the time, and her husband was ill with cancer), she managed to finish her studies at the top of her class.

In spite of her excellent school results, Ruth Bader Ginsburg encountered numerous difficulties in finding a job in a law firm once she had finished her studies. Indeed, as she said in a speech, “I was Jewish, a woman, and a mother. The first raised one eyebrow; the second, two; the third made me indubitably inadmissible”(1). Because of this numerous discrimination, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to temporarily give up working in a law firm and accepted a teaching position at a law school.

Despite all the obstacles she faced as a woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not stop, and she first brought important cases before the Supreme Court and then became an associate justice of the US Supreme Court herself.

The first case she ever discussed in front of the Supreme Court that was related to gender discrimination was Moritz v Commissioner of Internal Revenue, in which “The taxpayer, Charles E. Moritz, appeals from a decision of the Tax Court holding that he was not entitled to a deduction for expenses in 1968 for the care of his dependent invalid mother. The Government argues that the deduction was unavailable because he was a single man who has never married, the deduction being limited to a woman, a widower or divorce, or a husband whose wife is incapacitated or institutionalized”(2).

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