Feminist Fridays 3/18

As the new nominee for Supreme Court Justice to replace Antonin Scalia, Merrick Garland, begins down a long, hard road to fill the seat in a balanced court, we are focusing on the second ever female Supreme Court justice and one of three current female justices.

Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg was born on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York City, and was raised Jewish. She graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1954. In 1959, she earned her Bachelor of Laws at Columbia and tied for first in her class. In 1960, despite a strong recommendation from the dean of Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter turned down Ginsburg for a clerkship position because of her gender. She was a professor of law, mainly Civil Procedure, at Rutgers from 1963 to 1972, receiving tenure from the school in 1969. In 1970 she co-founded theWomen’s Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the U.S. to focus exclusively on women’s rights. Ginsburg volunteered to write the brief for Reed v. Reed in 1971, wherein the Supreme Court Court extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause to women for the first time. She then taught at Columbia from 1972 to 1981, becoming the first woman to receive tenure. President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, filling the seat of retired justice Byron White. She was viewed as a moderate at the time of her nomination, but today is considered more liberal. She took her judicial oath on August 10, 1993. She is the oldest Supreme Court justice at 83 years old. Ginsburg has used her position to advocate legally for gender equality. She is an inspiration to many women looking to break into the male-dominated profession of law.

Betty Naomi Friedan (neé Goldstein) was born on February 4, 1921, and died on her 85th birthday in 2006. She attended Smith College in 1938. She spent a year doing a fellowship at UC Berkeley in psychology. In Berkeley, she had some Marxist friends, many of whom came under investigation by the FBI. After leaving Berkeley, Friedan became a journalist for leftist and labor union publications. Between 1943 and 1946 she wrote for The Federated Press and between 1946 and 1952 she worked for the United Electrical Workers’ UE News. During the 50’s, a time where women were expected to be perfect, happy housewives and stay at home mothers, she wrote a book called “The Feminine Mystique.” According to Friedan, “The shores are strewn with the casualties of the feminine mystique. They did give up their own education to put their husbands through college, and then, maybe against their own wishes, ten or fifteen years later, they were left in the lurch by divorce. The strongest were able to cope more or less well, but it wasn’t that easy for a woman of forty-five or fifty to move ahead in a profession and make a new life for herself and her children or herself alone.” In 1966 Friedan co-founded, and became the first president of, the National Organization for Women. In 1970 NOW, with Friedan leading, was instrumental in the U.S. Senate’s rejection of President Richard M. Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee G. Harrold Carswell, who had opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act granting (among other things) women workplace equality with men. On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Amendment to the Constitution, Friedan organized the national Women’s Strike for Equality, and led a march of an estimated 20,000 women in New York City. While the march’s primary objective was promoting equal opportunities for women in jobs and education, protestors and organizers of the event also demanded abortion rights and the establishment of child-care centers. Friedan founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, renamed National Abortion Rights Action League after the Supreme Court had legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. On February 4, 2006, the world lost a great feminist and a person who was truly dedicated to her cause.