US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the history-making jurist, feminist icon and national treasure, has died, aged 87.
Ginsburg became only the second woman ever to serve as a justice on the nation’s highest court.
She struggled against blatant sexism throughout her career as she climbed to the pinnacle of her profession.
A lifelong advocate of gender equality, she was fond of joking that there would be enough women on the nine-seat Supreme Court “when there are nine”.
She did not let up in her twilight years, remaining a scathing dissenter on a conservative-tilting bench, even while her periodic health scares left liberal America on edge.
Despite maintaining a modest public profile, like most top judges, Ginsburg inadvertently became not just a celebrity, but a pop-culture heroine.
She may have stood an impish 5ft, but Ginsburg will be remembered as a legal colossus.
She was born to Jewish immigrant parents in the Flatbush neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York City, in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. Her mother, Celia Bader, died of cancer the day before Ginsburg left high school.
She attended Cornell University, where she met Martin “Marty” Ginsburg on a blind date, kindling a romance that spanned almost six decades until his death in 2010.
“Meeting Marty was by far the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me,” Ginsburg once said, adding that the man who would become her husband “was the first boy I ever knew who cared that I had a brain”.
The couple married shortly after Ginsburg’s graduation in 1954 and they had a daughter, Jane, the following year. While she was pregnant, Ginsburg was demoted in her job at a social security office – discrimination against pregnant women was still legal in the 1950s. The experience led her to conceal her second pregnancy before she gave birth to her son, James, in 1965.
In 1956, Ginsburg became one of nine women accepted to Harvard Law School, out of a class of about 500, where the dean famously asked that his female students tell him how they could justify taking the place of a man at his school.
When Marty, also a Harvard Law alumnus, took a job as a tax lawyer in New York, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School to complete her third and final year, becoming the first woman to work at both colleges’ law reviews.
‘Teacher’ to male justices
Despite finishing top of her class, Ginsburg did not receive a single job offer after graduation.
“Not a law firm in the entire city of New York would employ me,” she later said. “I struck out on three grounds: I was Jewish, a woman and a mother.”
She wound up on a project studying civil procedure in Sweden before becoming a professor at Rutgers Law School, where she taught some of the first women and law classes.