Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's stunning legacy began in Brooklyn

Eyewitness News airs special, 'From Brooklyn to the Bench: Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg'

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Special: 'From Brooklyn to the Bench: Remembering RBG
Special: 'From Brooklyn to the Bench: Remembering RBGEyewitness News explores the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, daughter of Brooklyn and champion of equal rights.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her mark as a women's right champion who became the court's second female justice, but her legacy began in New York City.

Joan Ruth Bader was born in 1933 on 9th Street in Midwood, Brooklyn.

Her father was a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine and her mother was born in New York to Austrian Jewish parents.

Tragedy hit when Ginsburg was 14 years old. Her 6-year-old sister Marylin died of meningitis.

Her sister's death planted one of the roots of her perseverance that grew her whole life.

When Ginsburg started grade school at PS. 238, the class already had several girls named Joan, prompting her mother to suggest the teacher use her middle name Ruth instead. But friends called her Kiki.

She attended the East Midwood Jewish Center on Ocean Avenue.

For high school, Ginsburg attended and graduated from James Madison High School in Brooklyn.

For four years, as Ruth excelled in school, her mom battled cancer. On the eve of her graduation, Ginburg's mom died at the age of 47.

Before becoming a Supreme Court justice in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, she received her bachelor's degree at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

PHOTO GALLERY | A look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life and legacy

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Vice-President Al Gore is sworn in Monday, Jan. 20, 1997, in Washington by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with his wife Tipper Gore looking on.
Ron Edmonds

It was there that she graduated with a bachelor's degree in government.

Ginsburg would then enroll in Harvard Law School, before returning to New York City and transferring to Columbia Law School, where she would earn her law degree, setting in motion a stunning career.

Columbia Law School released a statement Friday mourning the passing of Ginsburg:

"Today is the saddest of days for our community. We are heartbroken by the news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg '59, has died. It is difficult to find words adequate to capture the magnitude of this loss in the life of our institution, nor the scale of her legacy within the modern American legal consciousness. Since 1958, when she arrived at Columbia Law School for her 3L year, Justice Ginsburg made an indelible impact at every turn-first as a star student, then as a trailblazing and dauntless professor and advocate, and finally as a devoted alumna. In Columbia Law School's long and venerable history, I am hard pressed to think of an individual who more singularly elevated our collective aspirations. Her foundational work to advance gender equality, her commitment to the public good, and more than 40 years of path marking jurisprudence-characterized in equal measure by its courage and by its precision-made her an icon to generations of lawyers and ordinary citizens alike. For many, myself included, she was a personal hero."

Ginsburg was creative with her legal arguments and was a pioneer in the pursuit of women's rights. She won over and over again. Ginsburg used the Constitution itself to drive home the point that women were people too.

That is the reason Justice Ginsberg voted in 1996 that women cadets should be admitted to Virginia Military Institute.

"There are women ready and willing and able to undergo the training at VMI and want that opportunity so the state of Virginia cannot deny it to them," Ginsburg said.

And she saw no problem with a Supreme Court made up of nine women justices.

"People ask me well when do you think there will be enough on the Supreme Court, and I say when there are nine - and they are aghast," Ginsburg said.

Justice Ginsburg began preaching the mantra of helping others and your community as a professor at Rutgers University Law School, and in the process, inspired a generation of young lawyers.

Justice Ginsburg began preaching the mantra of helping others and your community as a professor at Rutgers, and in the process, inspired a generation of young lawyers.

With the passing of Justice Ginsburg, the fate of abortion rights, gender, and racial equality now hang in the balance. Of the nine Supreme Court justices, five lean Conservative, four lean Liberal. Ginsburg's death came just 46 days before the election, and here's what's next for the Supreme Court.

Lucy Yang has the latest on the Republican's race to nominate a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader ginsburg.

Its been said, Ginsburg was the least likely person to seek celebrity, but in a way she achieved it.

Her pop icon status dates back to 2013, when Shana Knizhnik wrote a blog, later co-authored a book, about Ginsburg who was given the nickname "Notorious RBG," a nod to the late rapper Chris Wallace.

They were polar opposites, yet as Ginsburg pointed out, both were born and raised in Brooklyn.

"Her notoriety, her incredible super hero status in American culture was something people were yearning for specially young people and young women," Knizhnik said.

Its been said, Justice Ginsburg was the least likely person to seek celebrity, but in a way she achieved it, with notoriety that rivaled even Brooklyn rapper Notorious B.I.G.

Her roots to New York City have been revered by many, including Steven Spielberg, Lady Gaga, Spike Lee, and Glenn Close.

Following surgery in 2019, the celebrities sent Ginsburg a "get well soon" card which included a statement from Lee, labeling her as the "Judge of Brooklyn."

RELATED | Steven Spielberg, Lady Gaga, sign get-well card for Ruth Bader Ginsburg

As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recovers from surgery, "RBG" filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West had dozens of A-listers sign a get-well card for her at awards season events.

Celebrities aren't the only ones who revere the justice, a New York City native spent her free time crocheting Ruth Bader Ginsburg dolls for a good cause back in 2018.

Lauren Glassberg has the details.

Millennials admired her determination to shatter barriers when it came to race and gender.

Tributes also poured in from several New York politicians following Ginsburg's death, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont directed flags to be lowered to half-staff on Friday in honor of the Supreme Court justice.

Justice Ginsburg was 87.

David Novarro has more on the life and legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


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