United States v. Virginia

(1996)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s early commitment to women’s rights and equality was perhaps forged when the dean of the Harvard Law School asked her and her eight female classmates why they were taking up seats at the school that rightly should be occupied by men. If that were not enough, she was unable to win a clerkship for a U.S. Supreme Court justice because of her gender, and she did not receive a job offer from the New York City firm where she clerked during the summer before her final year in law school. Then, after she took a teaching position at the Rutgers University Law School, she discovered that she was being paid less than male colleagues with the same rank.

These circumstances motivated Ginsburg’s preoccupation with civil rights generally and the rights of women in particular. During her academic years, when she also served as counsel for the ACLU, she took on a number of sex discrimination cases with a view to seeing gender equality afforded the same protections...

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Bill Clinton (National Archives)

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