In a new series inspired by iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives her thoughts on equality and service — and remembers her powerful connection with her late husband, Marty Ginsburg.
“I had the great fortune to marry a man who thought my work was as important as his,” said Justin Ginsburg, a noted women’s rights advocate before taking the bench, according to the opening page of I Know This to Be True: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The book is one in a series in which history-making figures answer the same questions and give hard-won advice on life and leadership.
Other figures in the series, which was released Tuesday, include teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, basketball player Stephen Curry, lawyer Bryan Stevenson, the famed feminist Gloria Steinem and Mandela (whose answers were gathered posthumously from quotes in past interviews).
Nowhere was Ginsburg’s vision for equality more real than in her decades-long relationship with Marty. Married for 56 years until his death in 2010, the couple raised two children: Jane, now 64, and James, 54.
The Supreme Court justice, 87, has become a pop culture sensation in recent years, buoyed by a hit documentary about her life and a biographical film starring Felicity Jones. (She’s known to fans as the “Notorious RBG.”) Liberals have rallied around her forceful dissents on the majority-conservative Supreme Court.
Before that, Ginsburg worked for decades changing laws that discriminated on the basis of gender — with her husband’s complete support.
In I Know This to Be True, she reflects on her fight to affect positive change through the law (“It takes not only talent, but willingness to work hard, to make dreams come true,” she said) and the people who inspired and supported her the most.
Marty was at the top of that list.
“He was a very funny man. He had a great sense of humour. I think he was so secure in what he was, so confident of his own talents that he never regarded me as any kind of a threat, or competition,” Ginsburg said, according to the book. “Just the opposite. I think he believed that because he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I had to be somebody special. That was his attitude.”
Even after Marty’s death, Ginsburg’s memory of him continued to push her forward. The day after he died, she made a point of going to court to attend the announcement of the justices’ opinions.
“I came to Court, I announced my opinion, because I knew that’s what he would expect me to do,” she said, per the book. “I feel his loss every day, but I think he would be pleased about what I am doing.”
Beyond the support her husband gave her, in the book Ginsburg explained some of her greatest advice for future leaders. She suggested that more people listen to each other, that they stand up for what they believe in (“Don’t take no for an answer, but also don’t react in anger,” she said) and they make space for women in positions of power.
“My dream for the world,” she said, according to the book, “is that we will all be better off when women and men are truly partners in society at every level.”
The I Know This to Be True series, made in collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, is on sale now.
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