What I'm reading: Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart

By Margaret Crocco posted 05-26-2019 02:21:52 PM

Perhaps you've heard of the "Notorious RBG" or seen one of the documentaries or the feature film about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Well-known historian of US women's history, Jane Sherron De Hart has written a big book (500+ pages) on Ginsburg's life that does a wonderful job of weaving women's history, legal and judicial history, and personal story together in this fascinating book (Knopf, 2018). Chapter titles in Part I describe Justice Ginsburg's early years: Celia's Daughter, Cornell and Marty, Learning the Law on Male Turf, Sailing in "Uncharted Waters," The Making of a Feminist Advocate, and Seizing the Moment. Together, these chapters help readers understand how Ginsburg became, as De Hart puts it, "an American icon." Subsequent chapters explain how Ginsburg's life and jurisprudence have contributed to a "more inclusive" approach to citizenship through the struggle for "civil rights and women's rights to gay rights and immigrants' rights" (p. xiv). In subsequent sections of the book, De Hart lays out the ways in which Ginsburg's judicial reasoning often persuaded other judges, but, as the Supreme Court moved in a conservative direction over the last two decades, how and why she often disagreed with the decisions made by the majority, sometimes voicing strong dissents to these judgments. A fascinating biography and insightful work of legal, social, and judicial history, the book's final section title, Part VI--Standing Firm, reflects not only Justice Ginsburg's approach to the law in the face of its conservative majority, but the wish of many people for her continued physical ability to remain on the Court so that she might continue to support more inclusive approaches to citizenship and protection of civil and voting rights in today's challenging times.