WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Appointed to the nation’s highest court in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton, Ginsburg was the oldest sitting member on the court. Despite a lengthy career on the court, she had never missed arguments until January 2019.
During her time as a justice and throughout her long law career, Ginsburg overcame adversity because of her gender, fought for women’s rights and eventually became the leader of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing.
Born on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, Ginsburg was encouraged by her mother, Celia Bader, to excel in school and pursue her professional ambitions. Celia died of cancer the day before Ginsburg graduated high school. Her father Nathan Bader worked as a fur manufacturer during the height of the Great Depression.
Ginsburg went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, graduating at the top of her class in 1954. She met Martin Ginsburg, her soon-to-be husband, at Cornell, and the couple married in 1954.
They quickly started a family, with Ginsburg giving birth to their first child, Jane. She also had a son, James. In an interview with The Atlantic, Ginsburg said having children “gave me a better picture of what life is.”
Soon after, Ginsburg enrolled in Harvard Law School. There, she served as the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.
After her husband accepted a job in New York City, Ginsburg moved with him and transferred to Columbia Law School to finish her degree. She earned a spot on the Columbia Law Review and graduated at the top of her class in 1959.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life through photos
She went on to clerk for Judge Edmund Palmieri on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1959 to 1961.
Starting her career as an educator, Ginsburg became a law professor at Rutgers University in 1963. She later taught at Columbia Law School for eight years starting in 1972. During that time, she also co-founded the Women Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union and served as the ACLU’s general counsel.
Ginsburg appeared before the Supreme Court six times as an attorney. In Frontiero v. Richardson, her first case before the court, Ginsburg argued against gender discrimination.
In 1980, she was appointed as a judge of United States Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit. She served for 13 years until Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court.
A champion for women’s rights, Ginsburg was one of nine women in a 500-person class at Harvard Law School and was the second woman ever appointed to the high court. As a justice, she fought against gender discrimination. Writing the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia in 1996, Ginsburg held that qualified women could not be denied admission to the Virginia Military Institute. In 2018, she expressed support for the #MeToo movement.
In recent years, she gained celebrity status among progressives – who lovingly referred to her as the "Notorious RBG" – and was the subject of the documentary, "RBG." Her life was the subject of the feature film, "On the Basis of Sex," in which she was played by Felicity Jones.
Ginsburg had a history of serious health problems but maintained her position on the court until her death.
A cancer survivor, Ginsburg was treated for colon cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2011.
In November 2018, she was hospitalized with three fractured ribs after falling in her office. While being treated for that doctors found growths on Ginsburg’s lung. In December 2018 she underwent surgery to remove two cancerous growths.
While recovering from that surgery, Ginsburg missed Supreme Court arguments in January 2019 for the first time in more than 25 years.
But despite her health challenges, Ginsburg frequently assured politicians and the public that she would stay on the Supreme Court. Some liberals suggested that she step down during the first two years of former President Barack Obama’s second term when Democrats held control of the Senate.
Earlier this year, Ginsburg said she intended to stay on the bench for “at least five more years,” in an interview with CNN. She had already hired clerks for the term that extends into 2020, according to the Associated Press.
“I’m now 85,” Ginsburg said in the August 2018 interview. “My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so think I have about at least five more years.”
President Trump now has another opportunity to move a conservative court even more to the right. This will be his third chance at appointing a Supreme Court Justice, following the death of Antonin Scalia and retirement of Anthony Kennedy.
Ginsburg leaves behind her daughter Jane and her son James. Her husband Martin died from cancer in June 2010, four days after their 56th wedding anniversary. She's also survived by several grandchildren.