Sept. 18 (UPI) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday of cancer, the Supreme Court announced. She was 87.
The liberal justice’s death comes two months after she announced her liver cancer had returned after receiving treatment for the disease in 2019.
“Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
Ginsburg constantly broke through glass ceilings, challenging social norms and using her intellect to win consensus among her peers — even when her peers were fellow Supreme Court justices.
She was the first tenured female professor at Columbia University, the first woman to join the Harvard Law Review and the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
Her passion for advocacy continued in her 25-plus years on the U.S. Supreme Court.
From gay marriage to Obamacare, Ginsburg tackled some of the biggest social issues of the 21st Century.
She was born Ruth Joan Bader on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, to Nathan and Cecelia Bader. She went to James Madison High School in Brooklyn, where she excelled in her studies. Her mother battled cancer for several years and died the day before Ginsburg graduated from high school.
Ginsburg attended Cornell University, where she finished first in her class in 1954. She married Martin Ginsburg that same year.
They had a daughter, Jane, who was born shortly before Martin Ginsburg was drafted into the military in 1954, leaving Ruth Bader Ginsburg to raise their daughter alone. Martin Ginsburg served two years before he was discharged.
Then, the couple enrolled in Harvard University’s law school, a male-dominated environment, where there were eight women out of 500 students.
In 1956, her husband got testicular cancer, which required treatment and rehabilitation that forced him to miss class. Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended classes for both of them, taking notes and typing papers. When Martin recovered, he graduated from law school, in large part because of his wife’s help. The story is depicted in the new film “On the Basis of Sex.”
After law school, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri and taught at the Rutgers University Law School and at Columbia.
The discrimination that Ruth Bader Ginsburg experienced in her early years drove her to push boundaries and take on gender discrimination. In the 1970s, she was the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. There, she argued six cases before the U.S. Supreme Court decades before she would sit on that bench.
President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. She served there until 1993 when President Bill Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace the seat vacated by Justice Byron White.
She was confirmed by the Senate 96-3.
On the Supreme Court, Ginsburg continued to advocate for gender equality, the rights of workers and separation of church and state. She wrote the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in United States v. Virginia that said the Virginia Military Institute couldn’t refuse women.
In 1999, she won the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall Award for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights.
She also famously objected to the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore case that decided the 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. She said “I dissent,” noticeably leaving out the word “respectfully.”
In 2015, Ginsburg sided with the majority in the King v. Burwell case that allowed the federal government to offer subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. The next day, she cast the deciding vote in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Her granddaughter Clara Spera was inspired by her “Bubbie’s” determination and was taught from a young age that she could get any job she wanted. She celebrated her third birthday at the Supreme Court in 1993, shortly after Ginsburg had been confirmed. In May 2018, Spera became a lawyer in New York.
In her mid-80s, Ginsburg said she intended to remain on the Supreme Court for at least another five years even as fellow liberal Justice Anthony Kennedy retired. In a show of defiance in 2018, she hired law clerks through 2020.
“I’m now 85,” Ginsburg told CNN in August 2018. “My senior colleague, Justice Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so I think I have about at least five more years.”
She’s a three-time cancer survivor and dealt with a number of other health problems over the years — but never let that slow her down.
She had surgery for colon cancer in 1999 and underwent chemotherapy treatment. In 2009, she had treatment for pancreatic cancer and went through chemotherapy treatments again. In 2014, she had a stent placed in her right coronary artery.
In November 2018, Ginsburg fractured three ribs when she fell in her office. She left the hospital the next day. A few weeks later, Ginsburg greeted 31 new U.S. citizens at the National Archives. She gave a stirring speech about her own father who moved to the United States from Russia at age 13.
She was hospitalized again in December to remove cancerous lung nodules that were found while doctors were treating her for the fall the previous month. She continued to work from her hospital bed just days after the treatment. The cancer was contained and didn’t spread, doctors said.
Ginsburg is the second Supreme Court justice to die in office since 2016 — the other being Antonin Scalia. The death leaves a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the third since President Donald Trump took office.
Trump will likely nominate a conservative replacement for Ginsburg.
Her husband Martin Ginsburg died of cancer in 2010. Ruth Bader Ginsburg described her husband of 56 years as her biggest booster and “the only young man I dated who cared that I had a brain.”
She is survived by children: attorney Jane Carol, 63, and music producer James Steven, 53.
She ranked in the top 10 Most Admired Women of 2018 on a Gallup Survey.