Blog: Remembering a superhero

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Mackenna Moslander

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg died from pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020. In the last decade, Justice Ginsburg had an almost cult-like following as the Notorious RBG.

Mackenna Moslander, Web Editor

WEB EXCLUSIVE While working on a piece about the disparity of the standardized testing system, I checked my phone thinking I received a text update from one of our staff cartoonists when I saw the notification. 

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice and liberal icon, dies at 87.”

As I reread the notification in disbelief, my heart plummeted to my stomach while thoughts and questions crowded my mind. She seemed invincible. She was the strongest person I had ever seen. 

My last thought, however, was the most ominous. “What happens now?” 

I left my room to solemnly share the news with my parents and watched their faces drop. Almost every question that had come to my mind, they verbalized. My dad worried about the Republican Senate majority having the opportunity to nominate a new candidate, while my mom read more about the disease and complications that ended her life, willing it to be untrue. 

Only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, she stood for justice, feminism and power in every way I have wanted to. Today, I have been reminded of the weekends I would spend reading her dissents on various rulings as my 14-year-old self tried to write opinions on the same decisions modeled after her writing. I tried to convey the same amount of passion as her in my own voice. It was harder than she made it seem. 

I remember freshman year convincing my best friend to see “On the Basis of Sex” and sitting in the movie theater, slumped down in our seats after having snuck ice cream pints in to accompany our viewing. We sat, tears streaming down our faces, as the actress morphed into the actual Justice Ginsburg walking up the steps of the Supreme Court. Afterwards, we went directly to the bookstore and bought any book that mentioned her and the picture book versions for my little cousins. 

I remember at 15 staying up late attempting to understand the footnoting and advanced syntax woven into her book. I would read page after page, amazed at her writing skill. 

I can remember reading one of her autobiographical picture books to my 3-year-old cousin and finishing each page with the repeated, flourishing phrase, “Nevertheless, she persisted”. My cousin would patiently wait on my lap, excited that she was from Brooklyn just like her, then run around at the end of the book like she was Amelia Earheart, ready to be a pilot and persist. 

Justice Ginsburg wielded power to her last breaths, telling her granddaughter that her final wish was for her replacement to be named by the next president. She fought for what she stood for with every ounce of strength she had and dedicated her life to trying to bring about a more fair, equitable country. 

She sent the message to millions of people, girls especially, that we deserve to have a seat at the table and to be heard. 

As the first tenured female professor at Columbia Law School, there was no glass ceiling she did not break. She worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and lead the Women’s Rights Project, a feminist in her speeches and protests, and one who worked harder and smarter than everyone around her. Her mother died the day before she graduated from high school, yet she persisted, continuing on to excel at Cornell University and earned spots on both the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review. 

President Jimmy Carter appointed her to an appellate court where she diligently served until her Supreme Court appointment by President Bill Clinton. Justice Ginsburg was known for her logical, level-headed approach to every issue she tackled. She was close friends with people such as Supreme Court Justice Scalia who she vehemently disagreed with on numerous issues, yet she did not let her personal thoughts over political topics cloud her treatment of others. 

The Notorious RBG was an icon, truly, in social justice, and there was so much more to her in her personal life. She was a devoted opera fan who attended many performances with her colleague Justice Scalia. She was a mother of two, and her daughter became a lawyer and Columbia Law School professor as well. Her husband, who passed away in 2010, was one of her biggest supporters and a lawyer as well. 

I can post on my Instagram story about how much she meant and wear my socks with her face and gavel on them. I can stare at the posters on my wall and reread her old books, but the truth is there is no way to express the loss our nation is enduring of a mother, a grandmother, a professor, a social justice warrior, a Supreme Court Justice and a real life Wonder Woman to little girls everywhere. 

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