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The New York Times bestselling book from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—“a comprehensive look inside her brilliantly analytical, entertainingly wry mind, revealing the fascinating life of one of our generation's most influential voices in both law and public opinion” (Harper’s Bazaar).

My Own Words “showcases Ruth Ginsburg’s astonishing intellectual range” (The New Republic). In this collection Justice Ginsburg discusses gender equality, the workings of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker. This book’s sampling is selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who introduce each chapter and provide biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted.

Witty, engaging, serious, and playful, My Own Words is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of America’s most influential women and “a tonic to the current national discourse” (The Washington Post).

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501145254
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 08/07/2018
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 6,501
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933–2020) was Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she received her BA from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, and received her LLB from Columbia Law School. From 1959 to 1961, Ginsburg served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund L. Palmieri, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She was a professor of law at Rutgers University School of Law (1963–1972) and at Columbia Law School (1972–1980). She was appointed a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. President Clinton nominated her as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat on August 10, 1993.

Mary Hartnett is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law, focusing on international women’s human rights.

Wendy W. Williams is Professor Emerita at Georgetown Law, best known for her work in the area of gender and law, especially concerning issues of work and family.

Read an Excerpt

My Own Words

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT had been the first lady throughout most of Ruth Bader’s childhood. Ruth’s mother, who deeply admired the first lady, often read Mrs. Roosevelt’s “My Day” newspaper columns aloud to Ruth. Eight months after President Roosevelt’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt was appointed by President Truman as a U.S. delegate to the newly established United Nations General Assembly. The UN Charter, in its preamble, declared as one of its aims “to regain faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” Eleanor Roosevelt, pursuant to that goal, became in April 1946 the first chairperson of the newly created U.N. Commission on Human Rights. In the wake of World War II, Ruth and her mother followed closely as Eleanor Roosevelt led the efforts that would result, in 1948, in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document Roosevelt celebrated as “the international Magna Carta for all mankind.”

Two months after Eleanor Roosevelt was chosen to head the UN Commission on Human Rights, Ruth Bader, by then a thirteen-year-old eighth grader and editor of her school newspaper, the Highway Herald, wrote a column of her own. Her column, the first piece in this collection, was a sign of things to come. While other students wrote about the circus, school plays, and the glee club, Ruth discussed the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and United Nations Charter.

Highway Herald, June 1946

Published by Pupils of Elementary Public School 238, Brooklyn, New York

Editorial by Ruth Bader, Grade 8B1

Since the beginning of time, the world has known four great documents, great because of all the benefits to humanity which came about as a result of their fine ideals and principles.

The first was the Ten Commandments, which was given to Moses while he was leading the Israelites through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. Today people of almost every religion respect and accept them as a code of ethics and a standard of behavior.

Up until the thirteenth century, conditions under the kings of Europe were unbearable for the commoners. Taxation was high, living conditions poor and justice unknown. It was then, in 1215 AD, that the barons and peers of England met and drew up a charter called the Magna Carta. After forcing King John to sign it, the document was declared the governing law of the land. This gave the English peasants the first rights ever granted to them.

When William of Orange, a Dutchman, was offered the English throne, his chief ambition was to use the military powers of Britain to aid his beloved Holland in its war with Spain. In accepting this offer, he had to grant certain concessions to the English people. So, in 1689, he signed the Bill of Rights. This limited the King’s powers and gave much of the government control to parliament, another important stride in the history of the world.

The Declaration of Independence of our own U.S. may well be considered one of the most important steps in the shaping of the world. It marked the birth of a new nation, a nation that has so grown in strength as to take its place at the top of the list of the world’s great powers.

And now we have a fifth great document, the Charter of the United Nations. Its purpose and principles are to maintain international peace and security, to practice tolerance, and to suppress any acts of aggression or other breaches of peace.

It is vital that peace be assured, for now we have a weapon that can destroy the world. We children of public school age can do much to aid in the promotion of peace. We must try to train ourselves and those about us to live together with one another as good neighbors for this idea is embodied in the great new Charter of the United Nations. It is the only way to secure the world against future wars and maintain an everlasting peace.

Table of Contents

A Note on Sources 11

Preface Ruth Bader Ginsburg 13

Timeline 23

Part 1 Early Years and Lighter Side

Introduction 29

1 Editorial for the School Newspaper (Highway Herald) 39

2 One People (Editorial, East Midwood Bulletin) 45

3 Wiretapping: Cure Worse than Disease? (Letter to the Editor, Cornell Daily Sun) 54

4 Marty Ginsburg's Favorite Subject (Remarks Introducing Justice Ginsburg) 61

5 Law and Lawyers in Opera 71

6 Remembering Justice Scalia 80

7 The Scalia/Ginsburg Opera 87

8 The Lighter Side of Life at the Supreme Court 104

Part 2 Tributes to Waypavers and Pathmarkers

Introduction 115

1 Belva Lockwood 117

2 Women's Progress at the Bar and on the Bench 123

3 From Benjamin to Brandeis to Breyer: Is There a Jewish Seat on the United States Supreme Court? 137

4 Three Brave Jewish Women 149

5 Sandra Day O'Connor 154

6 Gloria Steinem 161

7 Remembering Great Ladies: Supreme Court Wives' Stories 163

Part 3 On Gender Equality: Women and the Law

Introduction 187

1 Women and the Law: A Symposium Introduction 195

2 How the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Got My Wife Her Good Job 206

3 The Frontiero Reply Brief 213

4 The Need for the Equal Rights Amendment 225

5 The VMI Bench Announcement 241

6 Advocating the Elimination of Gender-Based Discrimination 247

Part 4 A Judge Becomes a Justice

Introduction 277

1 Rose Garden Acceptance Speech 285

2 Senate Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement 294

Part 5 The Justice on Judging and Justice

Introduction 317

1 Workways of the Supreme Court 329

2 Judicial Independence 349

3 Tribute to Chief Justice Rehnquist 359

4 The Madison Lecture: Speaking in a Judicial Voice 368

5 "A Decent Respect to the Opinions of [Human]kind": The Value of a Comparative Perspective in Constitutional Adjudication 400

6 Human Dignity and Equal Justice Under Law

a Brown v. Board of Education in International Context 417

b Remarks on Loving v. Virginia 426

c Remarks on the Value of Diversity: International Affirmative Action 431

7 The Role of Dissenting Opinions 443

a Remarks on the Role of Dissenting Opinions 446

b Bench Dissent Announcements (Ledbetter, Vance, Shelby County, Fisher, National Federation of Independent Business, Hobby Lobby, Carhart) 460

8 Highlights of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015-16 Term 509

Conclusion 531

Acknowledgments 537

Notes 541

Illustration Credits 577

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