Born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States for 27 years. An exceptional student, Ginsburg graduated at the top of her class from Cornell University. From 1956-1958, Ginsburg was a student at Harvard Law School, where she was the first woman member and editor of the Harvard Law Review. In 1958, Ginsburg moved to New York. She was admitted to Columbia Law School, where she graduated, tied for first in her class, in 1959. Ginsburg became the first woman tenured faculty member at Columbia Law School in 1972.
During the 1970s, Ginsburg was the founding director of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. In this position, Ginsburg successfully argued for the plaintiff in gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, including Frontiero v. Richardson (1973), where the Court ruled that husbands could be considered their wives’ dependents for U.S. military benefits. In Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, Ginsburg argued before the Supreme Court that the Social Security Act unlawfully discriminated on the basis of gender when denying survivors’ benefits to widowers. The Supreme Court agreed, ruling in favor of the plaintiff.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. President Bill Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993. Justice Ginsburg wrote opinions on numerous cases involving gender discrimination. In 1996, Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, ruling that the Virginia Military Institute could not deny admission to qualified female applicants.
Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D.C., on September 18, 2020, at the age of 87. Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol.
- Search results for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court decisions in U.S. Reports.
- The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Papers, 1897-2005 are available in the Manuscript Reading Room at the Library of Congress.
- Watch Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Visits the Young Readers Center. March 16, 2017.
- Watch U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: 2019 National Book Festival
- Read about the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project External