Notorious RBG | Irin Carmon

Summary of: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
By: Irin Carmon


Embark on the inspiring journey of Ruth Bader Ginsburg or ‘Notorious RBG’ as she conquered societal expectations, gender barriers, and triumphed as a women rights champion. In ‘Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’ by Irin Carmon, delve into RBG’s Brooklyn roots, her relationship with her mother, gender struggles in law school, persistence in fighting for equal rights, and her historic appointment as Supreme Court Justice. Experience how Ruth Bader Ginsburg became a pop culture icon due to her resilience, dissenting opinions, and unyielding dedication to justice, enforcing equal rights for all Americans.

RBG’s Early Life

Joan Ruth Bader, aka RBG, had a fairly regular childhood despite the prejudice against Jews during her time. She was born to Celia Amster Bader, a first-generation American whose parents had fled from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Though her mother didn’t attend college, she instilled a love for learning in young Kiki and hoped that she would attend university one day. Kiki spent lots of time at the library, reading Nancy Drew mystery novels, playing the cello and enjoying summer camp at Che-Na-Wah in the Adirondacks. At age 13, Kiki’s mother passed away, which inspired her to excel in her studies. Though she had multiple scholarships to attend Cornell, she didn’t attend her graduation because her mother had died the night before. Two significant lessons her mother instilled in Kiki were to be a lady and to be independent, just like she was in saving an additional US$8,000 for her daughter’s education.

Kiki’s Journey to Defy Gender Role Expectations

Kiki Ginsburg’s decision to pursue a career in law, despite societal expectations on women in the 1950s, was borne out of her observation of societal injustice.

As a student at Cornell in 1950, Kiki noticed that many of her female peers were only interested in obtaining a “MRS. degree” – finding a husband. Despite being part of the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority, Kiki avoided parties and instead smuggled books to study. She chose to major in government and studied constitutional law under Robert E. Cushman. While assisting Cushman with an exhibition on censorship during the Red Scare, Kiki observed how lawyers defended the rights of a censored professor and saw an opportunity to help society.

Despite parental reservations about Kiki’s career choice, she pursued a career as a lawyer. Kiki’s relationship with Marty Ginsburg was different from societal expectations; she did not view marriage as a means to obtain economic stability but saw her husband as a supportive partner who respected her ambitions. They married days after Kiki graduated from Cornell in 1954, embarking on a journey that would see Kiki become an accomplished lawyer and judge.

Kiki Ginsburg’s story is a reflection of the societal expectations placed on women in the 1950s and how Kiki defied those expectations to rise to the top of her profession.

RBG’s Inspiring Journey

Ruth Bader Ginsburg faced discrimination as a woman and mother throughout her education and early career. Despite challenges, she excelled in her studies and supported her husband through a cancer diagnosis, eventually becoming a successful lawyer and Supreme Court Justice.

RBG’s Journey to Feminism

RBG’s path from law grad to feminist icon, navigating adversity while paving the way for women’s rights in a male-dominated field.

RBG’s journey to becoming a feminist icon was paved with grit and determination as she navigated adversities to claim her spot in a male-dominated profession. Despite graduating top of her class from Columbia Law School, RBG was refused a clerkship by Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter after being recommended by her professors, reaffirming that law was not a welcoming profession for women. However, her professor Gerald Gunther pledged to find her a job and promised to replace her with a male if she failed to keep up with her responsibilities while caring for her child.

After successfully completing two years of clerking, RBG spent two years in Sweden, where she noted that Swedish women had started making demands and rejecting traditional gender roles. Upon her return to the United States, she accepted an offer to teach civil procedure at Rutgers University. RBG kept her second pregnancy a secret until after her contract renewal, knowing that most states allowed employers to fire women for being pregnant.

In the 1970s, RBG’s journey towards gender equality began to align with social change as women began to take to the streets, demanding equal rights as citizens. RBG’s story is an inspiration for all aspiring women who seek to break free from gender roles and navigate the challenges of a male-dominated profession.

RBG’s Fight for Women’s Rights

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) was an American lawyer and judge who fought for women’s rights by using her legal skills. In 1971, RBG volunteered to write the brief for Reed v. Reed, where she argued that the state had no right to assume that women were less capable than men. RBG co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project (WRP) in 1972, which aimed to educate the public about discrimination, change laws to give women equal rights, and support people to bring their cases to court. As the head of WRP, RBG argued in front of the Supreme Court for the first time in Frontiero v. Richardson, where she defended a US Air Force lieutenant who was denied benefits for her family based on her gender. RBG also fought for men’s rights and represented Stephen Wiesenfeld, a widower who was denied Social Security benefits, in Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld. For RBG, discrimination based on gender was disadvantageous for everyone, and change happens through hard work, one step at a time.

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