"Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."
Now if you'll indulge me, I would like to introduce you to today's #wowwomanwednesday, but I'd like you to do it with your political party lines set aside. Imagine yourself, independent of any party, as a foreigner with no previously held beliefs to one party or the other. Now imagine that you are introduced to a woman who you find out has had a pretty amazing life.
A woman like RBG.
This native born New Yorker, born in 1933, managed to accomplish many remarkable feats in a time when the roles for women were a bit more defined.
Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg (known as Ruth) was a hardworking, highly educated woman that learned, because of particular life experiences, the world needed to make a few changes in regards to female rights. And instead of relying on someone else to make those changes, she worked to make them happen herself.
Ruth's mother, Celia, loved and valued education, having graduated from high school herself at the age of 15. Celia had a desire to continue furthering her education but family finances could only support one college student so her family sent her brother to college instead. Because of this personal experience she knew she wanted to provide her kids with as much education as they desired.
Tragically, Celia passed away a day before her daughter's high school graduation; however, knowing her mother had such ambitious educational dreams helped Ruth as she went on to graduate at the top of her class at Cornell University and earning her law degree at Harvard and Columbia University.
It was during these years that Ginsburg had personal experiences with the male-favored culture of her time. First after being accepted into Harvard Law School, in which she was one of the only 9 female students out of 500 total, she was asked by the Dean, "Why are you at Harvard Law School, taking the place of a man?" Then, while serving in the Social Security Administration in Oklahoma, where her husband was stationed in the Army, she was demoted in position after becoming pregnant with her first child.
Later she was denied a clerkship position under Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter, also because of her gender.
Finally, well-known Professor of Law, Gerald Gunther, sent a recommendation to Judge Edmund L. Palmieri to hire Ruth for his clerkship. Gunther had to threaten to never send another recommendation to Judge Palmieri if he did not give Ginsburg the opportunity. He was so confident in her abilities that he told Palmieri that he would find a replacement if she did not work out.
Perhaps some of these life experiences are what have led Ginsburg to be so passionate about women's rights and have led her to start things like the Women's Rights Law Reporter, or co-author the first law school book on sex discrimination, or start a women's rights project with the ACLU, or help overturn several laws that up to that point had discriminated on the basis of gender. She even fought for the rights of men when she fought in the case of Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, which had been unfairly benefitting widows of military men by granting more benefits and resources to help care for the children of surviving women rather than surviving men.
It seems at the core of it that Ruth has always felt a compulsion to find justice for the sexes and narrow down human's natural tendency to unconscious bias as small as possible. As she put it:
"I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at. My favorite example is the symphony orchestra. When I was growing up, there were no women in orchestras. Auditioners thought they could tell the difference between a woman playing and a man. Some intelligent person devised a simple solution: Drop a curtain between the auditioners and the people trying out. And lo and behold, women began to get jobs in symphony orchestras."
Perhaps it is human nature for us to see things in our own way and frame our lives around those narrow views but that does not mean we are meant to stay with that same tunnel vision.
We are meant to have a wider view of life and the possibilities that this world has to offer. I believe that we are each made differently for this very purpose. To show that life is full of diverse and beautiful options with an array of human experiences and it is our job to do our best to remove our personal lenses and see humanity for its glorious creation.
Supreme Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has helped us to do that and did that her whole life. Of course there will be differences and beliefs we don't agree on, but if we try and see things differently and open our minds we just might see more than we think.
What we learn from Ruth:
We can achieve what we set our minds to through hard work, persistence, and determination; goals are powerful. Education can help us to see and appreciate what the world has to offer.
Help your child set an educational goal for this year. What would they like to learn about? Make a plan to learn more about that subject. Print the Subject Exploration worksheet below, or create your own plan to explore a new subject together.
Questions for discussion:
- Why is it important for us to learn? Why is it important for us to set goals for ourselves?
- What do you think would have happened if RBG listened to what people told her she could not or should not do? How have others benefitted from what she did, despite the opposition she faced?
- What do you want to be when you grow up? How can you start preparing for that now?