The Supreme Wisdom of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In honor of RBG's 85th birthday on March 15, advice and witticisms from the justice

The Washington Post/Getty Images

The only Supreme Court Justice in history to go by a hip-hop inflected nickname, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a.k.a. The Notorious RBG) is a brilliant legal mind and steadfast feminist icon — and has always had a lot to say. When she talks, people listen. When she dissents, the mic drops. And when she crafts the majority opinion, she offers not just sharp legal guidance, but also the gift of her wit. Take a listen…

On #MeToo The Washington Post/Getty Images On #MeToo "The number of women who have come forward as a result of the #MeToo movement has been astonishing. My hope is not just that it is here to stay, but that it is as effective for the woman who works as a maid in a hotel as it is for Hollywood stars."

- In an interview with The Atlantic; 2018
On partisanship Allison Shelley/Getty Images On partisanship "I wish there was a way I could wave a magic wand and put it back when people respected each other, and voted for the good of the country and not just along party lines. Someday there will be great representatives who will say 'Enough of this nonsense.' … I hope that day comes when I'm still alive."

-From a talk at Stanford's Memorial Church; 2017
On the <a href="" target="_blank">Notorious RBG Tumblr</a> and her internet fame Pool/Getty Images On the Notorious RBG Tumblr and her internet fame My grandchildren love it. At my advanced age-I'm now an octogenarian-I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who want to take my picture.

-In an interview with The New Republic; 2014
On the Equal Rights Amendment Terry Ashe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images On the Equal Rights Amendment "I remain an advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment, I will tell you, for this reason: because I have a daughter and a granddaughter, and I would like the legislature of this country and of all the states to stand up and say, 'We know what that history was in the 19th century, and we want to make a clarion call that women and men are equal before the law, just as every modern human rights document in the world does since 1970.'"

-At her Senate confirmation hearings; 1993
On dissenting David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images On dissenting "Dissents speak to a future age. It's not simply to say, ‘my colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way,’ but the greatest dissents do become court opinions."

-From an interview with Nina Totenberg; 2002
On feminism KORT DUCE/AFP/Getty Images On feminism "I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, 'Free to Be You and Me.' Free to be, if you were a girl—doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you’re a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that’s okay too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers."

-In an interview with Makers, a feminist media brand; 2012
On the gutting of the Voting Rights Act Bloomberg via Getty Images On the gutting of the Voting Rights Act "Just as buildings in California have a greater need to be earthquake-proofed, places where there is greater racial polarization in voting have a greater need for prophylactic measures to prevent purposeful race discrimination."

-In her dissenting opinion; 2013
On the gender makeup of the court The Washington Post/Getty Images On the gender makeup of the court "[W]hen I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that."

-In an interview at the University of Colorado in Boulder; 2012
Advice from her mother-in-law Michael Kovac/Getty Images Advice from her mother-in-law "It comes from my savvy mother-in-law, advice she gave me on my wedding day. 'In every good marriage,' she counseled, 'it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.' I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one's ability to persuade.

-From a New York Times op-ed; 2016
On the court SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images On the court "I am ever hopeful that if the court has a blind spot today, its eyes will be open tomorrow."

-In an interview with Katie Couric; 2014
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