Celebrate RBG's 85th Birthday With Her Best Quotes

Illustration by Louisa Cannell
Another year, another candle on the cake for Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 85 years old today.
At the start of her career, Ginsburg made the law reviews at both Harvard and Columbia Law Schools, graduating first in her class at the latter university. She didn't receive a single job offer after graduation (since women lawyers were ... unsavory prospects at the time), but she eventually landed a clerkship and worked at Columbia Law School's International Procedure Project before moving into academia.
Per the ACLU (with whom she founded the Women's Rights Project in 1972), after Ginsburg joined the faculty of Rutgers Law School in 1963 and learned that her salary was lower than that of her male colleagues, she "joined an equal pay campaign with other women teaching at the university, which resulted in substantial increases for all the complainants." That fight was a precursor to her future legal battles for women's rights — Ginsburg focused on sex discrimination lawsuits thereafter, until she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Advertisement
Ginsburg was later appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She became the second woman to ever serve on the country's highest federal court, and she is one of four to date. Dubbed by some as "The Great Dissenter" or "The Queen of the Dissent," Ginsburg has been very vocal about her judicial opinions — for example, "making sure the gender wage gap got its due attention" after the Court decided 5-4 in favor of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in the historic Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company ruling in 2007.
Also famed for her wit, sense of humor, love of family, work ethic (and intense workout regimen), Ginsburg has dispensed many gems over the years on career and life. Here are 15.
1 of 15
Ginsburg has said that she "did not go into law with the purpose of becoming an advocate of equal rights," as "in 1959, it was not possible to move legislators or judges toward recognition of a sex-equality principle."

Instead, she became a lawyer because she believed that she would be great at it. (Which is perfectly sound reasoning.)
2 of 15
This is, perhaps, Ginsburg's most famous saying, and it comes in response to an oft-asked question: When does she think there will be enough women on the Supreme Court?

"There is still work to be done," she told an audience this year.
Advertisement
3 of 15
In an 2012 interview with Makers, Ginsburg said that the "simplest explanation" that captures the idea of feminism comes from the 1972 record "Free to Be ... You and Me" by Marlo Thomas and Friends.
4 of 15
Over the years, the conversation about work-life balance has evolved (somewhat). Instead of relentlessly seeking perfect — and unattainable — equilibrium between one's work and personal life, many women have come to understand that each sphere takes the driver's seat at different times in the lives.

Ginsburg said as much during a conversation with Katie Couric, in which she discussed the 5-4 Hobby Lobby ruling, and viral article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All".

"Over my lifespan I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time things were rough," the justice said. "And if you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it."
5 of 15
Ginsburg revealed that although she had great grades and did well in law school, finding a position as an associate after graduation was tough — even the "avant garde" firms were only willing to hire one "token" woman.

Nonetheless, as the recent saying goes, she persisted.
6 of 15
In a 2012 talk at Stanford Memorial Church, Ginsburg encouraged listeners to think about how work can be a job as well as calling, and one that "makes life a little better for people less fortunate than you."
7 of 15
Ginsburg and her late husband Martin David Ginsburg had a famously egalitarian relationship. In 2015, the Supreme Court judge told The New York times, in conversation with Gloria Steinem, that her spouse's willing, enthusiastic support of her is what made entering into "an institution like [marriage]" and having huge career goals possible.
Advertisement
8 of 15
In a wide-ranging 2001 conversation with "The Record" of the NYC Bar, Ginsburg said that having more women sitting on the Supreme Court bench showed that equality was not a trend but an inevitability.

Injecting a dose of humor, she added, "I went through the entire last term which was my, what, seventh year on the court, with no one calling me Justice O'Connor. It took six years, but that, to me, was a sign that we’ve really made it, that all know there are two women."
9 of 15
RGB has said that "the most familiar issue and the largest one" that remains to be settled is who will take the responsibility for bringing up the next generation. She sees equality as being the answer to that question, someday.
10 of 15
On the heels of her book The Notorious R.B.G., MSNBC journalist Irin Carmon interviewed Ginsburg about her legacy and the future of women's rights.

"I had great good fortune in my life to be alive and have the skills of a lawyer when the women's movement was revived in the United States," she said, "and I think my attitude, my aspirations have not changed since the '70s."
11 of 15
Having a long, successful career has meant that RBG has, of course, bumped up against mansplaining and manterpreting of her own ideas. So, when Carmon asked if the justice still experienced sexism, Ginsburg had a well-honed sense of humor about the issue.
12 of 15
In 2016, the justice wrote an article in The New York Times' opinion section, reflecting on her career trajectory and dispensing "advice for living." She quoted advice that her mother-in-law gave her on her wedding day, which Ginsburg put to use in both her personal and professional lives.

"'In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.' I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court," Ginsburg wrote. "When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out."
Advertisement
13 of 15
In a 2014 interview with Elle, Ginsburg told the magazine that having three women justices was not only a sign of the Supreme Court moving into the future, but a point of inspiration for young people.
14 of 15
Ginsburg voiced her support for the #MeToo movement at the 2018 Sundance Festival, according to NPR, saying that she had less fear of backlash against women than might have in the past.
15 of 15
Ginsburg doesn't let her pseudo-celebrity get in the way of reality, and understands that not every decision will come down as she hoped.

"You go on to the next challenge and you give it your all," she has said.
Advertisement

More from Work & Money

Watch

R29 Original Series