The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

by The Cowl Editor on October 1, 2020

Film and Television

Books and Movies to Inspire a New Generation

by Grace Whitman ’22 A&E Staff

The loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been felt throughout the entire country as we have lost one of the most influential women in American history. Nicknamed “the Notorious RBG,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lifelong advocate for gender equality and human rights, passed away due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer on Sept. 18 surrounded by her family. The gender equality cases for which she litigated and helped to decide on the Supreme Court will continue to shape the law for generations to come. For those who want to learn more about Ginsburg’s life, there are many movies, television shows, and books that honor her legacy.

The book My Own Words, written by Justice Ginsburg and her two biographers, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, was released in 2016 and became a New York Times best-seller almost immediately. The book includes excerpts from some of the most defining moments of her life, including essential court cases and life experiences. Ginsburg pays tribute to some of the most important figures in her life who inspired her, including her mother Celia Bader, American feminist and social activist Gloria Steinem, and the first female Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. My Own Words shows Ginsburg’s passion for life and dedication towards making our world more just.


The 2018 film On The Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones as Ginsburg, begins with Ginsburg walking into Harvard Law School as one of only nine women admitted to a 561-person class. A true testament to her dedication and work ethic, Ginsburg is shown raising her daughter Jane, attending her own classes, and attending her husband Marty’s classes when he was diagnosed with cancer—all at the same time. Despite these challenges, Ginsburg tied for first in her graduating class.

Later in the plot, the film acknowledges her struggle in finding a job post-graduation. She did not receive a single job offer from a law firm in New York City, regardless of her qualifications, as a result of being a woman. She persevered, however, and obtained a law professorship at Rutgers University, beginning the career which would propel her into the Supreme Court. This movie showcases the legacy of Justice Ginsburg and will most definitely inspire many young women and men to dedicate their lives to mirror Ginsburg in fighting for what is right.

Finally, RBG, a 2018 documentary, received multiple Academy Award nominations for Best Documentary (feature) and Best Original Song for a film. The story begins with Ginsburg’s  childhood in Brooklyn, New York. Viewers are then shown the exceptional life of Ginsburg, and more specifically what motivated her to change the world for women. Inspired by the precedent set by racial equality activists, she expressed her desire for equal rights and protection for women. RBG changed the legal system forever as she argued several cases that demonstrated that discrimination on the basis of sex is unconstitutional, citing the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution as evidence for her arguments.

Other extremely successful books about RBG include Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life, a biography. Ruth Bader Ginsburg broke the glass ceiling and shattered stereotypes for women and men alike. To honor her legacy, keep asking yourself: “What would Ruth do?”