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Illustrated by Leo El-azhab

Tribute to RBG: A Model for Women Worldwide

How did a woman working in the U.S. touch the lives of young women worldwide? The answer might lie in the fact that several aspects of her life are either wildly relatable or severely impressive — the perfect combination to create a role model.

Sep 27, 2020

As the world parts with the brilliant mind and fiery spirit of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it is important to remember and celebrate the breadth of her reach and the scale of her impact. As a proud Jewish American woman whose heritage drove her to pursue a life-long fight for justice, she served as a role model for girls across the United States. But Ginsburg’s reach extended far beyond the Jewish community and the borders of the U.S. With her career-long battle for women’s rights and her achievements in the Supreme Court, she became a champion of women worldwide.
The most recent evidence for the international impact of Ginsburg’s legacy can be seen in the outpour of condolences from public figures across the world following the news of her death. French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to describe Ginsburg as an “exceptional woman” who spent her career fighting for “justice, gender equality and the respect for fundamental rights.” He was joined by a multitude of international politicians, actors, musicians and intellectuals who expressed their respect for the late Supreme Court justice’s life and achievements.
How did a woman in the U.S., working in a very nationality-specific profession such as law, touch the lives of young women worldwide? The answer might lie in the fact that several aspects of her life are either wildly relatable or severely impressive — the perfect combination to create a role model.
She Was Inspired By The Strong Women Around Her
Ginsburg was a high achiever in school, often driven by her mother, Celia Bader, who had wanted her daughter to obtain a secondary education and instilled in her a love for books. Although she passed away while Ginsburg was in high school, she mentioned her mother as one of her main inspirations. During Ginsburg’s Supreme Court acceptance speech in June of 1993, she described her mother as the bravest and strongest person she had known.
"I pray that I may be all that she would have been had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons,” Ginsburg stated. She drew inspiration from her mother and other strong women, just like the generations that followed would draw inspiration from her.
She Dealt With (and Defeated) Discrimination
Aged 21, Ginsburg was working at the Social Security Administration office in Oklahoma and was demoted as a result of her pregnancy. This was only one of the hardships that Ginsburg would endure as a woman in a male-dominated profession, and the beginning of her fight against pregnancy discrimination. One year later, Ginsburg started attending Harvard Law School alongside her husband Martin, but they faced very different treatment. As one of the nine women in a class of over 500, Ginsburg often recalled how the dean at the time invited her and the other eight female law students to meet with him, where he asked: “How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?”.
Despite excellent academic performance and strong references from professors, Ginsburg was denied a clerkship at the Supreme Court in 1959, since her preferred justice was apparently not ready to hire a woman. 34 years later, Ginsburg was nominated to sit on the Supreme Court — talk about perseverance.
She Managed to Combine Career and Family
I particularly admire Ginsburg’s ability to excel in the aspects of life that she found important — raising a child and maintaining a marriage, all while paving the way for the women who followed her.
Ginsburg also emphasized the importance of a division of responsibility in a marriage, which she and her husband did since the very beginning.
“Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation,” she famously stated.
Her Strength and Work Were Inspirational
The most common response I received when asking undergraduate students at NYU Abu Dhabi what they admired most about Ginsburg was simple — her strength. Leo El-azhab, Class of 2022 from Russia and Sudan, stated that it was Ginsburg’s ability to persevere despite challenges that came her way that impressed her the most. “I always look at her and thought if I could only be a fraction of what this woman was, I would be happy,” El-azhab admitted.
The argument that Ginsburg altered the status quo for women in the U.S. is not a stretch. When she began her journey with law, American women could be fired for being pregnant, unmarried women required the presence of a man to take a loan of any value and the Family and Medical Leave Act was not even in sight yet. Even outside of the U.S., Ginsburg's activism has been woven into the fabric of modern day feminism.
Ana Blatnik, Class of 2022 from Slovenia, opened up about her admiration for Ginsburg. According to Blatnik, as a lot of what happens on the political and legal scene in the U.S. is observed by and impacts the rest of the world, Ginsburg’s reach extends far beyond American borders. “Since she’s been such a huge part of so many decisions [...] I think it’s obvious that she would [...] have a profound impact on all of our lives,” Blatnik stated.
Despite her height of 5′ 1″, or just over 154cm, Justice Ginsburg stood tall and unwavering in the face of oppression, discrimination and injustice. She spent 27 years on the Supreme Court and a lifetime on improving the situation of women in the U.S. and, by extension, internationally. Even post-mortem she continues to break conventions, being the first woman to ever lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. After 87 years of resolve and determination, may she rest in peace.
Sara Morgane Motlik is a staff writer. Email her at
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