Ruth Bader Ginsburg at her confirmation hearing for her appointment to the Supreme Court on July 21, 1993. / R. Michael Jenkins, Congressional Quarterly.
ONE THING people in Washington learned about Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Don’t get between her and a tenor.
It was half a dozen years ago at the dinner following the opening-night performance of the Washington Opera. And there was the diminutive dynamo in her long filet-lace gloves, maneuvering her way closer and closer to the stars of the evening. Always courteous, always respectful, she looked up at each tall, bulky person blocking her and asked if she could just scoot around them. Seemingly shy but insistent, she made her way through the scrum.
Seemingly shy but insistent was RBG’s way forward. Along her way up the ladder, she outsmarted sex discrimination, winning cases for male plaintiffs alleging unequal treatment, knowing that the logical extension of her wins would redound to the benefit of women. And they did.
Who could say “no” to the venerable RBG? Well, of course, a good number of her colleagues on the Supreme Court did, often outvoting, but never outthinking, her. She became famous for her well-reasoned, and intensely felt, dissents, which usually made as much of a stir as the ultimate rulings by the Big Bench.
When did Ruth Bader Ginsburg become Notorious RBG, an icon for every woman trying to be heard? Hard to say exactly, but we can bet she did it seemingly shy but insistent.