STARRED REVIEW
October 16, 2018

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Jane Sherron De Hart
Review by

The 107th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has become an unlikely icon, a tiny-but-titanic 85-year-old whom popular culture has dubbed the “Notorious RBG.” She is showcased on everything from T-shirts to comedy sketches on “Saturday Night Live.” Lest this giant of jurisprudence lose her gravitas amid such fame, Jane Sherron De Hart does a daunting job of restoring Ginsburg’s impressive roots in Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life.

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The 107th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has become an unlikely icon, a tiny-but-titanic 85-year-old whom popular culture has dubbed the “Notorious RBG.” She is showcased on everything from T-shirts to comedy sketches on “Saturday Night Live.” Lest this giant of jurisprudence lose her gravitas amid such fame, Jane Sherron De Hart does a daunting job of restoring Ginsburg’s impressive roots in Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life. Hart’s biography is a studious walk through Ginsburg’s own keen recollections, arm and arm with explorations of many landmark cases, as well as their historical, social and political landscapes. Ginsburg’s colleagues on the Supreme Court, including the first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, and her fellow opera lover, the mercurial Antonin Scalia, are here as well, coloring the historical record and shedding up-close-and-personal light on the daily work of the court.

During her first year at Harvard Law School in 1956, Ginsburg was one of nine females in a class of 552, and the dean routinely asked her, “Why are you . . . taking a place that could have gone to a man?” Later, despite a stellar academic record, she had trouble landing a job. As she noted, “To be a woman, a Jew, and a mother to boot” was “a bit too much” in 1959.

By the time Ginsburg was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President Carter in 1980, her record of advocating for equal rights for women and men had made her a hero among feminists. Nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Clinton, she has served since as a strident voice on both liberal and conservative courts. She is known for distilling legalese into language the press and public can understand, and her opinions and dissents have buttressed groundbreaking cases that involve such issues as abortion, immigration and gender equality.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” De Hart leaves no doubt that, in Justice Ginsburg’s hands, that arc will undoubtedly continue to bend.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Jane Sherron De Hart
Knopf
ISBN 9781400040483

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