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The Notorious RBG

In 2013, Shana Knizhnik created her blog, “Notorious RBG”, (a play on famous rapper The Notorious B.I.G.) to educate people about the life, hardships, accomplishments, and impact of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Since then, she has published a more detailed book,  Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as an adaptation of her college thesis project. Shana Knizhnik’s project has led “The Notorious RBG” to become a growing pop culture icon and feminist idol for young Americans. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a modest beginning. Born in 1933 to a first-generation American mother and an immigrant father, Ruth made the most of her childhood and education. Her parents were poor Jewish shopkeepers, but wanted her to receive the best education and accomplish a great deal in her life. Her mother died shortly before Ruth’s highschool graduation, and Ruth was determined to make her proud. Following high school, she enrolled in Cornell University to attain an undergraduate degree in the arts. While at Cornell, she met her future husband, Martin Ginsburg, and they immediately hit it off. Martin and Ruth were married in 1954 and their daughter, Jane, was born one year later. Both Martin and Ruth went to Harvard afterwards to obtain their degrees from law school. Ruth had always wanted to change the world; she wanted to make life easier for minorities and people who faced discrimination. To do this, she knew she needed to become a lawyer; she needed to represent the people who couldn’t represent themselves. She knew that to even have a chance as a respected lawyer, she needed to go to the best law school possible. Several of the Harvard professors as well as the overall atmosphere in the Harvard Law School was toxic and discriminatory towards young women striving for well respected and complicated degrees, but Ruth powered through. When Martin got a job in New York, Ruth had to leave Harvard, but she transferred to Columbia’s law program after her second year at Harvard. During the beginning part of her life, Ruth didn’t stand up for herself when she was treated differently for being a woman, but that would change quickly in the coming years.

The discrimination against Ruth only continued with time, but she didn’t let that stop her from coming into one of the highest legal positions in the country. She was often denied jobs in her early career solely because she was a woman. After completing law school, Ruth was rejected from every law office in New York- even in her application as a law clerk. The New York Times wrote, “She spent two years clerking for a federal district judge, Edmund L. Palmieri, who agreed to hire her only after one of her mentors, Prof. Gerald Gunther, threatened never to send the judge another law clerk if he did not.” Ruth was a perfect student who knew the ins and outs of the law better than almost all other applicants for these jobs; Ruth was rejected because she was a young woman in the 1960s. She taught law at Columbia University in her early working years and had her son, James, in 1965. In 1972 she was invited to become the director of the discrimination and women’s rights division at the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) because of her extreme legal skills and dedication to gender equality. While in this position, she worked on projects and cases revolving around discrimination, particularly on the basis of sex. In this new job as a litigator, Ruth argued various cases to protect the rights and freedom of various underrepresented people. Although Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked many cases as a litigator, her first case before the Supreme Court was a huge turning point for her career. The case, Frontiero v. Richardson, was arguing over the benefits provided to the spouse of a military officer. At this point, wives were given assets and support when their husbands served in the military, but only because it was assumed that they could not support themselves properly; if a woman were a military officer, their husbands were not given the same benefits as the wife would have gotten because a man was expected to support himself. Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued strongly for equality; to her, fairness and equality were of the utmost importance. Ruth Bader Ginsburg worked on 34 Supreme Court cases and argued six cases of them before the Supreme Court in her time as an attorney. 

Despite having greatly enjoyed the impacts she could make in her job at the A.C.L.U., Ruth wanted to make an even bigger impact in destroying gender stereotypes and discrimination throughout the country and American legal system. In 1980 she started a new job as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Early on, she avoided rocking the boat, but she made enough waves to eventually capture the attention of the nation. August 3rd, 1993, President Bill Clinton officially named her a Supreme Court Justice. Climbing the ranks in the legal field, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second female Supreme Court Justice. Because of her blatant, consistent, and liberal dissents, Ruth came into what we know her as now: the Notorious RBG. She is often credited with increasing rights and respect for women through radical dissents and well planned speeches, campaigns, and votes. Ruth’s intense passion for gender equality helped her win over the Supreme Court in many cases to give people more rights. Her most well known case as a Justice was United States v. Virginia. The United States was fighting against the Virginia Military Institute’s exclusion of female applicants. Obviously, this case spoke to Ruth; she ferociously wrote the papers detailing the Court’s decision to remove the male only policy at the Virginia Military Institute allowing hundreds of eligible women to enlist in the academy. Throughout her career as a Justice Ruth made America a better place for everyone. She fought for the rights of not only women, but everyone. She believed that anyone should be able to live a happy life just as much as anyone else without any regard to the gender of the individual. She is one of the most credited people with reducing gender roles, stereotypes, and discrimination in the United States.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020 at the age of 87. Her funeral service was private, but broadcasted to the public. Furthermore, Ruth was the first woman to lie in repose at the Capital. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died as a huge influence to young and old citizens for granting us to live a more equal and nondiscriminatory life in America. Anyone can make their place in society, overcome discrimination, fight for the rights of themselves and others no matter their size, race, religion, economic status, or gender; Ruth Bader Ginsburg proved that to us all.


Brown, Jeffrey, and Anne Azzi Davenport. “How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Became the ‘Notorious RBG.’” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 23 Sept. 2020,

Greenhouse, Linda. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court’s Feminist Icon, Is Dead at 87.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Sept. 2020,

Hallemann, Caroline. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg Funeral Details - Town & Country Magazine.” Town and Country Magazine, 25 Sept. 2020,

Project, The Equal Justice. “Legally Notorious: Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Equal Justice Project, Equal Justice Project, 15 Oct. 2020,

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