Head of School Reflects on the Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

September 24, 2020

Our school leader discusses the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the possible impact that one life can have on so many others.

Greetings from a rainy day in Faribault,

Flags across the country are being flown at half-mast as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lays in state. Her resume is impressive, and not simply because she was the second woman ever to hold the role of Supreme Court Justice. It is not the fact that she was a woman but the importance she ascribed to highlighting the fact that she was a woman in the predominantly male world of law that helped create her legacy. As perhaps the most prominent example, she always wore a lace collar over her robe as a reminder that the robes were designed and cut for men. Her point – and Sandra Day O’Connor’s as well – was that when the Supreme Court Justice robes were made, there was not even a consideration that a woman would hold the position.

In 1972, long before Title IX paved the way for girls and young women to participate equally in athletics, Ginsburg took on a case in New Jersey where a high school girl wanted to play tennis. As typical at the time, the school only had a boys’ team, and girls were not allowed to try out for the team. Ginsburg took on the case, and Abbe Seldin was able to play.

This is one of the small, incremental steps that led to Title IX and eventually to a place where we have professional opportunities for women in competitive athletics. It also is a good illustration of how Ginsburg went about change, and a good model for us to consider when changing the overall structures may seem too daunting.

One person can make a difference, and one decision can begin a process that brings about greater change. And, when even just one person decides to relentlessly keep chipping away at a larger structural inequality, change happens. What a good reminder for us when we are feeling our tasks are insurmountable and our voice is too quiet to be heard.

Stay healthy and safe,