The world is celebrating Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon of women’s rights, an icon of liberalism who gave voice to the voiceless. She achieved all this facing adversity and, injustice all her life, yet became one of the iconic figures in America. America will always celebrate Ruth for her achievements; for the position, she held in the Supreme Court. She gained an esteemed status for the ideas she propagated for the upliftment of the society. Ruth was the Associate Justice of America’s Supreme Court from 1993 until her passing away last week due to pancreatic cancer. She was the second women ever to be appointed a Supreme Court Justice.
It takes me to the question that Ruth herself once raised – What is the difference between a bookkeeper in Brooklyn, New York, and a Supreme Court justice”? And she answered. “The difference between the opportunity that was offered to my mother and that which was offered to me”.
Ruth took upon this opportunity and spoke for the people, for the women. She was a champion of progressive causes. As part of the Supreme Court’s four-member liberal wing, she did her most memorable work in dissent.
In India, Asia and in the world around, opportunity makes all the difference. Ruth was lucky to have the environment she had while growing up. Not every girl gets that opportunity, the space to think, to grow and to make choices, especially in a country like India. There are two women judges out of 30 in the Supreme Court in India, and 78 in the High Court among hundreds across the country.
In the early decades following India’s independence, it was not expected of women to work and be independent unless the circumstances forced her. In many cases, even after the circumstances forced, there was no opportunity for education and, for work. The society thought that a working woman bought shame to her family and community. Multiple barriers are blocked her way. Things have started changing for a large majority of women since 1980s.
Ruth las left a legacy for America and for women to follow their dreams. Undoubtedly talented, she was open in acknowledging the support and understanding she got all her life from her husband, Martin Ginsburg.
In her book ‘MyOwn Words’ she said how much she learned from her professor, Vladimir Nabokov, at the Cornell University. Choosing the right word, and the proper word order, he illustrated, could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or an idea.