Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the most celebrated US Supreme Court Justices in modern history. Not only has she played a pivotal role in furthering gender equality, but she has also been an outspoken advocate for human rights.
Throughout her long and distinguished career, she inspired millions of Americans with her wit, her wisdom, and her commitment to justice. In honor of Justice Ginsburg (aka Notorious RBG), let’s take a look at some of her most famous quotes.
RBG Quotes on Gender Equality
If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an amazing woman. Not only was she a brilliant mind and a passionate advocate for gender equality, but she was also unafraid to speak her mind—even when her opinions were unpopular.
In honor of RBG and everything she stood for, here are some of her most famous quotes on gender equality.
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
This quote is from a 2009 interview with USA Today, and it perfectly sums up her beliefs on gender equality. Ginsburg believed that women deserved to have a seat at the table in all aspects of society, and she fought tirelessly to make that a reality.
“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
Although often attributed to RBG, this famous quote was actually first said by Sarah Moore Grimké, a 19th century abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
In 1973, Ruth Bader Ginsburg used this quote during her first oral arguments before the Supreme Court in a case that contested a U.S. Air Force policy of providing benefits to dependent spouses differently based on sex.
In her opinion, Ginsberg argued that gender discrimination often works to the detriment of both men and women; by excluding women from VMI, the school was depriving them of an opportunity to receive a good education, while also depriving men of the chance to learn from their female peers.
Ginsburg won the case, and her words continue to resonate today. She believed that men and women should be treated as equals, and she was unwilling to settle for anything less.
“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
This quote is from an interview that Ginsburg gave to The New York Times in 2015, and it contains some wisdom that we could all use in our lives. Ginsburg knew that progress could not be made without allies, and she was always willing to work with others—even those who disagreed with her—to further her cause.
“There will be enough women on the court when there are nine.”
Unfortunately, Ginsburg’s vision has not yet been realized; as of 2022, there are only three women on the court. But her words continue to inspire us to fight for a more just and equal society.
“My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1933. Her mother, Celia Amster Bader, was a first-generation immigrant from Poland.
Celia instilled in her daughter a strong sense of independence, and Ginsburg credits her mother with teaching her the importance of always standing up for herself.
RBG Quotes on Human Rights
In addition to being an advocate for gender equality, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was also a passionate defender of human rights. Throughout her career, she spoke out against discrimination and injustice, and she fought for the rights of all people—regardless of race, religion, gender or creed.
“The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control.”
Ginsburg spoke about her belief that the focus of abortion debates should be on the right to privacy, rather than the right to abortion itself.
Ginsburg believed that everyone—regardless of their views on abortion—should be able to agree on the importance of privacy.
“I try to teach through my opinions, through my speeches, how wrong it is to judge people on the basis of what they look like, color of their skin, whether they’re men or women.”
Ginsburg often spoke about the importance of judging people based on their character, rather than their external traits.
She encouraged her audience to fight against discrimination in all forms, and she urged them to stand up for what is right.
“We’ve come a long way from the days where there was state-enforced segregation. But we still have a way to go.”
“Contraceptive protection is something every woman must have access to, to control her own destiny.”
“The concern was that if a woman was doing gender equality, her chances of making it to tenure in the law school were diminished. It was considered frivolous.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes on Dissenting Opinions
Though she was often in the minority with her opinions, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has never wavered in speaking her mind—even when it means disagreeing with her colleagues.
In fact, Ginsburg has become well-known for her fiery dissenting opinions, which she has said are necessary to keep the Court “grounded.” Read on for some of Ginsburg’s most powerful quotes on dissent.
“Dissents speak to a future age. It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this other way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was known for her powerful dissents, which often spoke to a future generation of justices. In this quote, she expresses her hope that her dissenting opinions will one day be vindicated and become the law of the land.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
In this quote, Ginsburg urges her audience to fight for what they believe in—but to do so in a way that will inspire others to join the cause.
Ginsburg believed that progress could only be made if people were willing to work together and listen to different viewpoints.
“You can disagree without being disagreeable.”
Ginsburg believed that it was possible—and important—to have healthy debates without resorting to personal attacks.
“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.“
In this quote, Ginsburg reflects on how often “impediments” can actually lead to great opportunities.
Ginsburg has said that her own career is a prime example of this principle—if she had not been denied a job because of her gender, she may never have become a lawyer and eventually a Supreme Court Justice.
“I do hope that some of my dissents will one day be the law.”
RBG Quotes on Being a Judge
These wise words from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg offer a window into her approach to being a judge. In a world where passions can run high and tempers can flare, Ginsburg believed that it was important to keep a level head and maintain focus on the task at hand.
For her, this meant setting aside personal feelings and emotions in order to make sound decisions based on the facts and the law. It’s a perspective that served her well during her 27 years on the bench, and it’s one that continues to inspire new generations of judges today.
“I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.”
“A judge sworn to decide impartially can offer no forecasts, no hints, for that would show not only disregard for the specifics of the particular case, it would display disdain for the entire judicial process.”
“There are some singers that know exactly when to go, and others hang on much too long and that is the same, that is the same with judges.”
No matter what your political views are, it’s impossible to deny that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an immensely inspiring figure. She has dedicated her life to fighting for gender equality and human rights, and her legacy will continue to live on long after she is gone.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an amazing woman who fought hard for what she believed in. Her words will continue to inspire people for years to come. What’s your favorite RBG quote?