BIOGRAPHY

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biography 2024: Age, Net Worth, Family, Husband, Children, Height, Career, Education and Cause of Death

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Biography 2024: Age, Net Worth, Family, Husband, Children, Height, Career, Education and Cause of Death
Written by Ask AllBioHub

Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg, born Joan Bader on March 15, 1933, was an esteemed American lawyer and jurist. She served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her passing in 2020.

President Bill Clinton nominated her to fill the vacancy left by retiring justice Byron White. Known for her moderate and consensus-building approach, Ginsburg became the first Jewish woman and the second woman overall to sit on the Court, following in the footsteps of Sandra Day O’Connor.

Throughout her time as a justice, Ginsburg authored several influential majority opinions, including notable cases such as United States v. Virginia (1996), Olmstead v. L.C. (1999), Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. (2000), and City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York (2005).

As her tenure progressed, Ginsburg gained attention for her impassioned dissents, which often reflected her liberal interpretation of the law. Embracing her popular nickname, “the Notorious R.B.G.”, Ginsburg left an indelible mark on the Supreme Court and the legal landscape of the United States.

Ginsburg was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Tragically, her older sister Marilyn passed away from meningitis when Joan was just a baby, and her mother also passed away shortly before she completed high school.

She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and married Martin D. Ginsburg. Despite becoming a mother, she pursued her education and enrolled in law school at Harvard, where she was among the few women in her class.

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Later, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School and graduated as one of the top students. In the early 1960s, she collaborated with the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure, learned Swedish, and co-authored a book with Swedish jurist Anders Bruzelius.

Her experiences in Sweden greatly influenced her views on gender equality. Ginsburg went on to become a professor at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School, where she taught civil procedure as one of the few women in her field.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
August 10, 1993 – September 18, 2020
Nominated by Bill Clinton
Preceded by Byron White
Succeeded by Amy Coney Barrett
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
June 30, 1980 – August 9, 1993
Nominated by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Harold Leventhal
Succeeded by David Tatel
Personal details
Born
Joan Ruth Bader

March 15, 1933
New York City, U.S.

Died September 18, 2020 (aged 87)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Spouse

(m. 1954; died 2010)

Children
Education

Early Life and Education

Joan Ruth Bader was born on March 15, 1933, at Beth Moses Hospital in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

She was the second daughter of Celia and Nathan Bader, who resided in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood.

Her father, a Jewish emigrant from Odesa, Ukraine, was a part of the Russian Empire, while her mother was born in New York to Jewish parents from Kraków, Poland, which was then a part of Austria-Hungary.

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Sadly, their elder daughter Marylin passed away at the age of six due to meningitis. Joan, who was only 14 months old at the time, was affectionately called “Kiki” by the family, a nickname given by Marylin for being an energetic baby.

When Joan began school, her mother Celia realized that there were several other girls named Joan in her class. To avoid confusion, Celia suggested that the teacher refer to her daughter by her second name, Ruth.

Although not deeply religious, the Bader family belonged to the East Midwood Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue, where Ruth learned about the principles of the Jewish faith and became familiar with the Hebrew language.

Ruth, however, was unable to have a bat mitzvah ceremony due to Orthodox restrictions on women reading from the Torah, which greatly disappointed her.

From the age of four, she attended Camp Che-Na-Wah, a Jewish summer program located near Minerva, New York, and continued to be involved as a camp counselor until she turned eighteen.

Celia actively participated in her daughter’s education, frequently accompanying her to the library. Despite being a diligent student herself, Celia’s educational pursuits were halted as her family prioritized sending her brother to college.

However, Celia was determined to provide her daughter, Ruth, with ample opportunities for education, hoping that it would pave the way for her to become a high school history teacher.

Ruth attended James Madison High School, and in recognition of her accomplishments, the school’s law program later dedicated a courtroom in her honor. Unfortunately, Celia battled cancer throughout Ruth’s high school years and passed away the day before Ruth’s graduation.

Ruth Bader enrolled at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she joined the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority. It was during her time at Cornell that she crossed paths with Martin D. Ginsburg when she was just 17 years old.

On June 23, 1954, Ruth obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Cornell. While studying at the university, she had the privilege of being mentored by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov, whose influence greatly shaped her development as a writer.

Ruth excelled academically, earning membership in Phi Beta Kappa and securing the highest rank among female students in her graduating class. Shortly after graduating from Cornell, Ruth married Martin Ginsburg.

The couple relocated to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where Martin, a graduate of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, served as an active duty United States Army Reserve officer during the Korean War. At the age of 21, Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked at the Social Security Administration office in Oklahoma, but unfortunately faced demotion after becoming pregnant with her first child. In 1955, she gave birth to a daughter.

In the autumn of 1956, Ruth Bader Ginsburg registered at Harvard Law School, where she was among a mere 9 women in a class consisting of approximately 500 men.

The dean of Harvard Law, Erwin Griswold, purportedly extended an invitation to all the female law students for a dinner at his family residence and inquired of them, including Ginsburg,

“What is the reason behind your presence at Harvard Law School, taking the spot of a man?” When her spouse secured a job in New York City, that very dean declined Ginsburg’s plea to finish her third year towards a Harvard law degree at Columbia Law School, thus prompting Ginsburg to transfer to Columbia and become the first woman to contribute to two prominent law reviews: the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review. In 1959, she successfully obtained her law degree from Columbia and tied for the top position in her graduating class.

Early Career

Ginsburg faced challenges in securing employment at the beginning of her legal career.

Despite a strong recommendation from Albert Martin Sacks, a professor and later dean of Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter rejected her for a clerkship in 1960 due to her gender.

However, Columbia law professor Gerald Gunther advocated for Ginsburg to be hired as a law clerk by Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Gunther even went as far as threatening to never recommend another Columbia student to Palmieri if he didn’t give Ginsburg the opportunity.

He also guaranteed to provide a replacement clerk if Ginsburg didn’t succeed. As a result, Ginsburg began her clerkship with Judge Palmieri later that year and held the position for two years.

During her time from 1961 to 1963, Ginsburg served as a research associate and later as an associate director at the Columbia Law School Project on International Procedure, collaborating with director Hans Smit.

She even went as far as learning Swedish to co-author a book with Anders Bruzelius on civil procedure in Sweden. Ginsburg dedicated a significant amount of time to conducting research for her book at Lund University in Sweden.

Her experiences in Sweden, particularly her interactions with the Swedish Bruzelius family of legal experts, played a crucial role in shaping her views on gender equality.

Witnessing the progress in Sweden, where women made up 20 to 25 percent of all law students, left a lasting impact on Ginsburg.

One of the judges she observed during her research was eight months pregnant and still actively working. Karin M. Bruzelius, the daughter of Anders Bruzelius and a Norwegian supreme court justice who was a law student at the time Ginsburg collaborated with her father, highlighted how Ginsburg’s closeness to her family helped her realize that women could lead a different lifestyle and have a distinct legal status compared to what was prevalent in the United States.

Ginsburg began her career as a professor at Rutgers Law School in 1963, where she faced gender discrimination in terms of salary compared to her male counterparts due to her husband’s job.

During that time, she was among the few female law professors in the country. She taught at Rutgers until 1972, specializing in civil procedure and earning tenure in 1969.

In 1970, she co-established the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the U.S. dedicated solely to women’s rights.

Transitioning to Columbia Law School from 1972 to 1980, Ginsburg made history as the first tenured woman and co-wrote the initial law school casebook on sex discrimination.

Additionally, she spent a year as a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences from 1977 to 1978.

Ginsburg’s legal scholarship and advocacy are widely recognized for driving significant progress for women’s rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

Her legal victories played a crucial role in discouraging gender-based differential treatment by legislatures.

Prior to her appointment to the Federal Bench in 1980, Ginsburg dedicated her efforts to the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. Colleague Antonin Scalia commended her advocacy skills, likening her to the Thurgood Marshall of women’s rights.

This comparison was initially made by former solicitor general Erwin Griswold, who had been her professor and dean at Harvard Law School, in a speech delivered in 1985.

Court Of Appeal U.S

In response to the mounting backlog in the federal judiciary, the Omnibus Judgeship Act of 1978 was passed by Congress. This act led to an increase of 117 federal judges in district courts and an additional 35 in the circuit courts.

The legislation highlighted the importance of diversity by ensuring that women and minority groups were included in the judiciary, a priority for President Jimmy Carter, who had been elected two years prior.

Furthermore, the bill mandated that the nomination process take into account the character and experience of the candidates. Ginsburg had contemplated a career change following Carter’s election. She pursued the position of Solicitor General, her preferred role, and underwent an interview with the Department of Justice.

However, she was aware that her chances, along with those of the African-American candidate interviewed on the same day, were slim due to the unlikelihood of being appointed by Attorney General Griffin Bell.

Ginsburg, at the time, was a fellow at Stanford University, focusing on documenting her work in litigation and advocacy for equal rights.

Meanwhile, her husband, a visiting professor at Stanford Law School, was prepared to leave his position at Weil, Gotshal & Manges for a tenured role. He was also actively involved in advocating for his wife’s potential judgeship.

In January 1979, Ginsburg completed questionnaires for potential nominations to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the District of Columbia Circuit.

President Carter nominated her on April 14, 1980, to fill a seat on the DC Circuit left vacant by Judge Harold Leventhal’s passing. Following confirmation by the United States Senate on June 18, 1980, she officially received her commission on the same day.

While serving as a judge on the DC Circuit, Ginsburg frequently reached agreements with her fellow judges, even those who held conservative views such as Robert H. Bork and Antonin Scalia.

Her tenure on the court established her as a “cautious jurist” and a moderate. She concluded her service on August 9, 1993, following her appointment to the United States Supreme Court, and was succeeded by Judge David S. Tatel.

Supreme Court

President Bill Clinton selected Ginsburg as an associate justice of the Supreme Court on June 22, 1993, to replace retiring justice Byron White.

Janet Reno, the U.S. attorney general at the time, recommended her to Clinton following a suggestion from Utah Republican senator Orrin Hatch.

Ginsburg was perceived as a moderate and a consensus-builder during her time on the appeals court when she was nominated.

Clinton aimed to enhance the Court’s diversity, which Ginsburg achieved by becoming the first Jewish justice since Justice Abe Fortas resigned in 1969.

She was also the first Jewish female justice and the second female justice on the Supreme Court. Ginsburg went on to become the longest-serving Jewish justice.

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary rated Ginsburg as “well qualified”, its highest rating for a prospective justice.

Ginsburg declined to answer questions about her stance on certain issues, such as the death penalty, during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation hearings.

However, she did address some potentially controversial topics, including her belief in a constitutional right to privacy and her thoughts on gender equality.

Ginsburg was more open about her views on issues she had previously written about. The United States Senate confirmed her with a 96–3 vote on August 3, 1993.

She received her commission on August 5, 1993, and took her judicial oath on August 10, 1993.

Her Take On Abortion

In a 2009 interview with The New York Times, Ginsburg expressed her stance on abortion and gender equality, stating that “the government has no business making that choice for a woman.”

Despite consistently advocating for abortion rights and supporting the Court’s decision to strike down Nebraska’s partial-birth abortion law in Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000), Ginsburg criticized the ruling in Roe v.

Wade on its 40th anniversary. She believed that the decision halted a potential movement to liberalize abortion laws democratically, which could have led to a stronger consensus in favor of abortion rights.

Ginsburg dissented in Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007), a 5-4 decision that upheld restrictions on partial birth abortion. She disagreed with the majority’s reliance on legislative findings that deemed the procedure unsafe for women, questioning the credibility of Congress’s conclusions.

In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 579 U.S. 582 (2016), Ginsburg sided with the majority in striking down portions of a Texas law regulating abortion providers.

She not only supported the decision but also wrote a separate concurring opinion that was highly critical of the legislation, arguing that it aimed to hinder women’s access to abortions rather than protect their health.

When John Paul Stevens retired in 2010, Ginsburg became the oldest justice on the court at the age of 77. Despite speculation that she would retire due to her advancing age, poor health, and the death of her husband, she denied any plans of stepping down. In an interview in August 2010, Ginsburg stated that her work on the Court was helping her cope with the loss of her husband. She also expressed her desire to serve as long as Justice Louis Brandeis, who had served for nearly 23 years, a goal she achieved in April 2016.

During Barack Obama’s presidency, there were calls from progressive attorneys and activists for Ginsburg to retire so that Obama could appoint a successor who shared her views.

This was particularly emphasized while the Democratic Party had control of the U.S. Senate. However, Ginsburg reiterated her intention to remain a justice as long as she was mentally capable of fulfilling her duties. In 2013, Obama invited her to the White House when it seemed likely that Democrats would lose control of the Senate, but she declined once again.

She believed that Republicans would use the judicial filibuster to prevent Obama from appointing a justice with similar ideologies. Ginsburg looked up to her former colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired at the age of 90 after serving for almost 35 years.

Some speculated that leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Ginsburg was waiting for Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump before retiring.

It was believed that Clinton would nominate a more liberal successor for her compared to Obama, or that her successor could be nominated by the first female president.

However, after Trump’s victory and the election of a Republican Senate, Ginsburg would have had to wait until 2021 for a Democrat to become president. Unfortunately, she passed away in office in September 2020 at the age of 87.

Personal Life

A few days following Ruth Bader’s graduation from Cornell, she wed Martin D. Ginsburg, who later gained recognition as a prominent tax attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

Upon Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s appointment to the D.C. Circuit, the couple relocated from New York City to Washington, D.C., where Martin assumed a position as a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Their daughter, Jane C. Ginsburg (born 1955), now serves as a professor at Columbia Law School.

Their son, James Steven Ginsburg (born 1965), is the creator and head of Cedille Records, a classical music recording company situated in Chicago, Illinois. Martin and Ruth were blessed with four grandchildren.

Following the birth of their daughter, Martin was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Throughout this challenging time, Ruth attended classes, took notes for both of them, typed her husband’s dictated papers, and cared for their daughter and her ailing husband.

It was during this period that she was also chosen to be a member of the Harvard Law Review. Martin passed away due to complications from metastatic cancer on June 27, 2010, just four days after their 56th wedding anniversary.

They openly discussed their shared earning/shared parenting marriage, including in a speech that Martin had prepared before his passing, which Ruth delivered posthumously.

In 1999, Ginsburg received a diagnosis of colon cancer, marking the beginning of her five battles with cancer. She underwent surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy, all while maintaining her presence on the bench.

Despite the physical toll of the cancer treatment, Ginsburg enlisted the help of a personal trainer, Bryant Johnson, a former Army reservist from the U.S. Army Special Forces. Johnson trained Ginsburg twice a week in the justices-only gym at the Supreme Court. Ginsburg’s dedication to her physical fitness paid off, as she was able to complete twenty push-ups in a session before her 80th birthday.

Almost ten years later, in February 2009, Ginsburg underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer. The tumor was caught at an early stage, allowing her to return to the Supreme Court bench shortly after being released from the hospital. In November 2014, after experiencing discomfort while exercising, Ginsburg had a stent placed in her right coronary artery.

Death and Succession

Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on September 18, 2020, at the age of 87 due to complications of pancreatic cancer. Her death occurred on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a time when it is believed that very righteous individuals may pass away at the end of the year as they are needed until the very end.

Following her death, a large crowd gathered in front of the Supreme Court building to pay their respects by laying flowers, lighting candles, and leaving messages.

Five days later, a private ceremony was held in the Court’s great hall for Ginsburg, attended by the eight Supreme Court justices, her children, and other family members.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her casket was moved outdoors to the Court’s west portico to allow the public to pay their respects.

Thousands of mourners lined up over two days to walk past the casket. After lying in repose at the Court, Ginsburg was the first woman and first Jew to lie in state at the Capitol.

Finally, on September 29, she was buried next to her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.

Ginsburg’s passing created a vacancy on the Supreme Court shortly before the 2020 presidential election, leading to debates over the nomination and confirmation of her successor.

Prior to her death, Ginsburg expressed her wish to her granddaughter that she not be replaced until a new president is in office. Despite this, Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed by the Senate as her replacement on October 27, following President Trump’s nomination.

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