Not fragile like a flower, fragile like a bomb. That quote, most often attributed to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, came to mind last week after I heard of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (and also because there is a popular T-shirt which bears her image sporting those words). 

They say dynamite comes in small packages, and at just 5’ 1”, Ginsburg was quite a bundle.

On a personal level, as I heard of the 87-year-old Ginsburg’s passing, I was sad … she was definitely on my top 10 list of people I’d hoped to meet someday - but time obviously got away from me on that one. 

A few years ago, I had done some research on Ginsburg, and I had happened upon a fact that immediately drew me in, to further study her life and works. Like myself, she had lost her only sister. 

Not that she remembers … Ruth was only a baby when Marilyn, just 6 years her senior, died of meningitis. I, myself, was 4 ½ when my baby sister, Heidi, died of sudden infant death syndrome.

It may seem like a loose connection, but I would venture to guess that being part of the sisterless population - albeit perhaps a small demographic of women who had sisters and lost them for whatever reason - shapes a person in ways specific to that specific experience. It doesn’t seem fair. So maybe you spend some, or much of your life, trying to create fairness along life’s travels. 

The family of young Ruth Bader experienced loss again right before Ruth’s graduation from high school, when they lost her mother, Celia, to cancer. 

But Ginsburg was not discouraged and went on to make her mother - her biggest inspiration - proud. After meeting and marrying her husband, Martin, just a month after graduating from Cornell University, the couple moved to Oklahoma, where he was stationed as an ROTC officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. 

Getting demoted from a Social Security Administration job after becoming pregnant with daughter Jane only added fuel to the fire in her soul, inspiring her to become one of the world’s leading advocates for gender equality. 

After juggling motherhood and the pursuit of a law degree from Harvard and ultimately Columbia Law School, she tied for first in her class. 

When a recommendation from the dean of Harvard Law School wasn’t good enough to get her a Supreme Court clerkship position, because of her gender, she clerked for a U.S. District Court Judge instead. 



A long list

My purpose here is not to regurgitate the incredible life and times of Justice Ginsburg. It takes Wikipedia 43 pages to cover just a fraction of her accomplishments. 

I sit in awe of her many accomplishments, and how so many men and women, from all walks of life, owe many of their civil liberties to the tiny powerhouse from Brooklyn. 

She was co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, winning five out of six gender discrimination Supreme Court cases between 1973 and 1976. 

She was careful to also choose male plaintiffs, showing how gender discrimination is not limited to women. 

She fought for female service members to be able to claim the same housing allowances for their husbands as men could claim for their wives. She demanded that widowers deserved the same Social Security survivor benefits as widows. She challenged an Oklahoma statute that set different drinking ages for men and women. 

Her countless legal victories are credited with equalizing the way men and women were treated with concern to the law. 

When President Bill Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1993, she was the second female (first Jewish female), and she ultimately became the longest-serving Jewish justice.

She felt the government had no right to make abortion-related choices for women. 

She wrote the majority opinion for the case in which the Court formally deemed mental illness as a disability. 

She was the first Supreme Court justice to officiate at a same-sex wedding. 

The list goes on ...



Not perfect

And although Ginsburg spoke her mind at many opportunities, she was not afraid to admit when she had maybe gone too far. 

After telling The New York Times she would consider moving to New Zealand if Trump got elected, she apologized, as she did once again after calling Colin Kaepernick’s protest “really dumb.” 

The bottom line is that she believed in kindness, but, like many of us, sometimes fell short of that goal.  But who doesn’t? And she wasn’t afraid to admit her mistakes. 

She also wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself. When a law student labeled her the Notorious R.B.G after the rapper Notorious B.I.G., she reportedly embraced the nickname, even handing out T-shirts to family and friends at holidays. If you want to really crack up, check out the workout video she starred in with Stephen Colbert. What a corker she was.  

Of herself, she said, “I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.”

As far as personal goals are concerned, I think she hit that one out of the park. 

R.I.P., Notorious R.B.G. You will be missed.