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  • Writer's pictureMarcella

May Her Memory be a Revolution

Photographer: Todd Heisler/The New York Times via Redux

By now you would have heard all about the life, death, and work of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. But if you didn't follow her career or haven't ever worn a WWRBGD t-shirt to a march or rally, you may be wondering "why did we love her so much?" I'd like to share my thoughts.

From her childhood in Brooklyn, playing on garage roofs with the boys, to the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court, Ruth never let her sex determine her actions or get in the way of her dreams. In an interview with Makers, she said, "I think the simplest explanation [of feminism]... is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, 'Free to be You and Me.' Free to be, if you were a girl - doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you're a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that's OK too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers.." 

RGB's ability to inspire us to be who we want to be, goes beyond her relentless fight to change the views of the male-dominated Supreme Court, fighting for the acceptance of women as an equal gender. Ruth also epitomized the everyday struggles women face, managing family life and her own ambitions, long before the term "work-life balance" ever existed. Confronting discrimination early in her career but persisting, until she was judged for her talents and not her gender. She broke down sexist barriers one small step at a time by proving her abilities - despite being a woman, a mother, and a wife.

In recent years she was given the moniker "Notorious R.G.B", beloved by a new generation of eager and passionate feminists. Although the 'tough guy' title was given with the greatest affection, the way she fought was the opposite of what this would imply. Yes, her dissents were fiery and passionate, but in truth, she was the most formidable women's legal advocate in modern history that never used a bullhorn on a podium, never burned a bra, never got herself arrested for political show, and never let her emotions alter her disposition. She acted always with a quiet grace, carefully and diligently studying the law, finding the injustices, and proving why they didn't work in a modern society with her intelligence and wit as her only props.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg with her husband Martin and their daughter Jane in 1958. Supreme Court of the US via AP

Being a woman in the very male-dominated watch industry, I know about having to prove yourself. I understand having to work harder than my male counterparts for that prized corner office. And what a tricky balance it is to hold the respect once you finally have it. Having an icon like Ruth Bader Ginsberg - who forged a path for gender equality before I could even tell time - gave me, and countless other women like me, the inspiration to follow my passion and be who I wanted to be, despite the extra hurdles I would face.

RGB, in a way, was the woman we all want to be. She is the role model we want for our daughters, nieces, and sisters. She was the mother we all loved and cherished, the grandmother we adored and protected. She was everyone's bubbeh, giving of herself as easily as candy from a jar. We wished she could live forever because as long as she did, we felt seen, heard, represented, loved, and inspired.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg. AP

I think it is very fitting that book critic Ruth Franklin, a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, tweeted on Friday night after hearing of her passing, "According to Jewish tradition, a person who dies on Rosh Hashanah, which began tonight, is a tzaddik, a person of great righteousness". NPR reporter Nina Totenberg explained the tradition further: "A Jewish teaching says those who die just before the Jewish new year are the ones God has held back until the last moment bc they were needed most & were the most righteous.

Traditionally when a Jewish person dies, you may say "May her memory be a blessing". But in Ruth Bader Ginsberg's passing, many are hoping for more, that her work will inspire others to pick up the torch and are saying: "May her memory be a revolution".

And may she rest in the peace she so well deserves.

Notorious RGB, book cover illustration

To listen to more of Ruth Bader Ginsberg on Makers, click here

For some favorite Ruth Bader Ginsberg quotes, click here

For Ruth Bader Ginsberg fast facts and timeline, click here

To learn more about the meaning of a tzaddick, click here

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