Written by: Lillian Shern
Edited by: Anngu Chang
Photographs by: Gracy Wen
Oct. 18th, 2021
With the ongoing pandemic and death tolls that never seems to dwindle, we mourn with our loss of “a justice of historic stature”. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, passed away from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer on September 18.
She always kept a vigorous schedule even after five bouts with cancer: colon cancer in 1999, pancreatic cancer in 2009, lung cancer in 2018, and then pancreatic cancer again in 2019 and liver lesions in 2020. She endured chemotherapy, radiation, and terrible pain from shingles that never went away completely, even showing up for the State of the Union address three weeks after her major cancer surgery in 2009.
Ginsburg spent a lifetime flourishing in the face of adversity before being appointed a Supreme Court justice. Before she was nominated to the Supreme Court, she spent much of her legal career as an advocate for gender equality and women's rights and won several major court battles that brought down a series of discriminatory laws against women.
As she was nominated in 1993, she spent her 27-year tenure defending the rights of the LGBT community and immigrants, establishing herself unequivocally as a champion of the American left and becoming its most prominent member: the Notorious RBG.
Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in 1999 where, over a nineteen-year career at the company, Lilly was consistently given lower compensation and raises than other male employees. She won the case in federal court in 2003 and was awarded 3.6 million dollars. However, the company appealed in 2007, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and arguing that discrimination complaint has to made within 180 days of the employer’s discriminatory response. The Supreme Court upheld a reversal of the federal court decision.
Railing against the 5-4 all male majority, Ginsburg delivered one of her most blistering dissent. She called the majority’s ruling out of tune with the realities of wage discrimination and “a cramped interpretation of Title VII, incompatible with the statute's broad remedial purpose.” In her concluding remarks, Ginsburg suggested that “the Legislature may act to correct this Court's parsimonious reading of Title VII.” This case eventually led to the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act under the Obama Administration.
By the end of her accomplished tenure, Ginsburg's strides to eliminate gender-based stereotyping in legislation and regulations opened doors for women to follow. She has worked her entire career to eliminate any limitations for women.