Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazing champion of women’s rights, died on Friday. She was 87 years old.
Ginsburg, who was nominated to the bench in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton, went on to leave a lasting mark in the realm of gender equality, civil liberties and pay equity, and grew to achieve improbable late-in-life recognition as a pop culture icon and hero of the progressive movement.
Her first major opinion as a justice came in 1996 when she wrote the majority decision in United States v. Virginia. The ruling struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s 157-year-old policy of male-only admissions as unconstitutional, and set a stricter legal standard for government action that treats men and women differently.
“Women seeking and fit for a VMI-quality education cannot be offered anything less under the state’s obligation to afford them genuinely equal protection,” Ginsburg wrote in the 7-1 decision.
Ginsburg also gained renown for her cogent and sharply worded dissents.
One such dissent came in 2007 after the court ruled 5-4 on procedural grounds to bar a pay discrimination claim brought by former Goodyear Tire employee Lilly Ledbetter.
Ginsburg took the relatively rare step of reading her dissent from the bench to signal the intensity of her disagreement, with the 5-foot-one-inch tall justice donning a gold-embroidered black jabot for the occasion. It would not be the final word on the case, however.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed his first official legislation with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which effectively overturned the Supreme Court’s decision by making it easier to file pay discrimination suits. Ginsburg kept a framed copy of the bill, signed by Obama, in her chambers.
Her husband, the late Marty Ginsburg, died from cancer in 2010.
Survivors include Ginsburg’s two children, Jane Ginsburg and James Ginsburg, and her grandchildren, who affectionately called her “Bubbe.”