RBG: A Legacy of Independence

Claire Weltz, Opinion Writer

To encapsulate the “Notorious R.B.G,” more commonly known as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in one word is a hefty challenge. With her passing, her friends, family, and colleagues who knew her the best have expressed their admiration for the woman she was in all aspects of her life. Since her passing, social media flooded with her most memorable quotes. It’s near impossible to pick a favorite because Ginsburg spoke to every arena of life – her sharp wit and humor allowed her words to resonate all the more. In my experience, the words that we remember are the most important to us; the words that Ruth Bader Ginsburg recalled were of her mother. RBG said, “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.” This then raises the question: what does it mean to be independent? How did Ruth Bader Ginsburg live out her mother’s words on a day to day basis?  

Living and working in such a polarized environment such as Washington D.C. is a lot like high school. There are cliques and hierarchy, albeit with less eccentric gym teachers and half-cooked cafeteria food. It seems like everything is Republicans versus Democrats, the Left versus the Right. While Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought furiously for her beliefs, she didn’t let those political divisions stop her from seeing the opposite “side” as people too. In fact, she was great friends with another Supreme Court Justice – Antonin Scalia – despite their diverging convictions. The pair were known for their annual New Year’s Eve party where both of their families were invited. This is a beautiful picture of how RBG maintained her independence, by going against the grain of “easy” friendships endorsed by the traditions of D.C. 

Another aspect of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that showed her independence and individuality that is often glossed over is her style. A stereotypically female interest, RBG embraced her style and it conveyed her opinions without using words. The most iconic pieces of her style include collars and jabots which stems from her embracing her feminine side in a predominantly male profession. She explains this idea, saying, “You know, the standard robe is made for a man because it has a place for the shirt to show, and the tie.” Ginsburg added, “So Sandra Day O’Connor and I thought it would be appropriate if we included as part of our robe something typical of a woman. So I have many, many collars.” Teaming up with Sandra Day O’Connor to find a way for both of them to show their individuality is another one of the many ways Ruth Bader Ginsburg modeled what it means to be independent.  

The word “independent” has lots of connotations. From a teenager becoming an adult to a national holiday filled with fireworks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg encompasses all of those ideas and more. So, what does it look like for you to follow in RBG’s footsteps – to be independent? Ponder it for a bit. Oh, and don’t forget to vote. That’s what Ruth Bader Ginsburg would endorse as the ultimate use of independence.  


Claire Weltz is a Dakota Student Opinion Writer. She can be reached at [email protected].