Friday, March 13, 2020

Celebrate RBG's Birthday with Five Facts You Never Knew About Your Favorite Supreme Court Justice

In times of uncertainty, it's important to remember to celebrate the big and small moments that make us appreciate life or that can at least give us some type of distraction from the global crisis. For me, this includes celebrating RBG's 87th birthday on Sunday, March 15th. In honor of the Justice who has served on the Supreme Court of the United States for almost 27 years, here are some fun facts that you may not know about the oldest Justice on the Supreme Court.

1. The story behind the infamous name.

You may have already known that "Ruth" is actually her middle name, but do you know how she started going by Ruth? She was named Joan Ruth Bader when she was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 15th, 1933. When she started kindergarten, there were two other girls in the classroom named Joan. To avoid confusion, her mother decided to have her go by Ruth to help her stand out (like she needed the help).

2. Her first protest was anything but elementary. 

In grade school, Ruth was forced to use her right hand instead of her left hand during her penmanship class. She was told by her teachers that she was supposed to write with her right hand like everyone else. When Ruth wrote, she had sloppy handwriting and received a D (!) on a penmanship test. After receiving her grade, Ruth decided to always write with her left hand, abstaining from the "normal" way to write while still achieving great penmanship.

3. Her justice nomination was stalled by the NBA finals.

In the spring of 1993, President Bill Clinton had the privilege of nominating the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. After the president had a conversation with Ruth, he could see that she not only had a brilliant mind but that she would also bring a human component to the court. Ruth was later told that she would receive a call from the President and to wait by the phone. She waited and waited for her phone to ring. President Clinton planned to call Ruth after he watched the NBA finals. However, the game happened to go into triple overtime, making it a three hour and twenty-minute game (one of the longest games in NBA history). When the president finally called, he said that he would be nominating her for the justice position! In August of 1993, RBG became the first Jewish woman on the highest court in the nation.

4. Her unlikely friendship with Justice Scalia.

Anthony Scalia and RBG worked with each other well before they became Justices and they've always had differing options. On the bench, they argued and disagreed about the interpretation of the Constitution. If one was writing the opinion, the other was writing the decent. However large their differences were in the court, they seemed to have similar tastes in social activities. They would go to operas and parties together, they even went parasailing in France. She considered him one of her best friends because he made her laugh.

5. Two rounds of cancer, zero court days missed. 

Throughout her career as a Justice, RBG has fought (and beat) three different types of cancer. In 1999 she was diagnosed with colon cancer and ten years later in 2009, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Both of these rounds with cancer caused her to undergo surgery and treatment but she never missed an oral argument. She always scheduled her treatments on Fridays so she had the weekend to recuperate. However, in December of 2018, Justice Ginsburg had surgery to treat lung cancer and understandably, she did miss a few oral arguments, but she kept updated by reading the transcripts and she returned to the bench in February of 2019.

Bonus Fun Fact!

Due to her declined health after her first battle with cancer, RBG decided to take more of an effort to take care of herself by becoming a vegetarian (and later on a vegan) and by also becoming a gym rat at the young age of sixty-six! The Notorious RBG can do 2 sets of 10 standard push-ups in one workout (how many can you do?).

This March 15th, make sure you proudly where your RBG shirt, use your RBG mug, or any other RBG paraphernalia and firmly object, resist and dissent until your heart's content.

For more fun facts about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, check out our RBG graphic novel, kids book, and other RBG titles we have at the Gallagher Law Library.

List of RBG books available at the Gallagher Law Library (part 1) List of RBG books available at the Gallagher Law Library (part 2)

Bryant Johnson, The RBG Workout 64-65, 104 (2017).

Debbie Levy, Becoming RBG 2-4, 172-177, 193 (2019).

Debbie Levy, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsberg Makes Her Mark 9-10, 31-32 (2016).

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