Ginsberg, Ruth Bader. “My Own Words”, Simon and Schuster, 2016.
One of America’s Most Influential Women
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has served for almost twenty-five years as a judge on the highest court in America. During that tenure, she has captured the popular imagination because of the depth of her devotion to basic rights for all humanity and especially those causes that advance gender equality. With the assistance of her official biographers, Mary Hartnett and Wendy H. Williams, Ginsburg brings us a compilation of her finest writing, beginning with an editorial for her school newspaper when she was only 13 years old though highlights from the Court’s most recent term. She shares who she thinks are the trailblazers she has admired throughout her career as well as the bigger and broader issues in her life and some of what went on behind the bench regarding groundbreaking Court decisions.
This is the first book from Ruth Bader Ginsburg since she became a Supreme Court Justice in 1993 and it is witty, engaging, serious, and playful. She covers many topics but especially interesting are her writings “on gender equality, the workings of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond U.S. shores when interpreting the U.S. Constitution”. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker. Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams selected what is included here and they really had a lot to choose from. Justice Ginsburg wrote an introduction to the book, and Hartnett and Williams introduce each chapter. They giving biographical context and quotes taken from hundreds of interviews that they have conducted. So much has been written about Justice Ginsberg that it is hard to imagine that there is something new but this book is filled with tidbits about Ginsberg, the person that we have not read before. We feel her respect and admiration for other justices on the Supreme Court who have different views than hers and we see this in her
posthumous tributes to fellow justices Rehnquist and Scalia. Ginsberg is best known by her devotion to basic rights for all humanity and especially for those causes that advance gender equality.
This is not a standard autobiography but rather a collection of selected essays, articles, speeches, etc that span and that provide a great deal of information about Justice Ginsberg, her roots, her husband Martin Ginsburg, her family and her works.
The book is conveniently divided into five sections: “Earlier Years and Lighter Side”, “Tributes to Waypavers and Pathmarkers”, “On Gender Equality: Women and the Law”,” A Judge Becomes a Justice” and “The Justice on Judging and Justice”. We immediately find ourselves in awe and admiration of her when we read about the awe and admiration she acknowledges for the contributions of women waypavers and pathmarkers (Belva Lockwood, Sandra Day O’Connor, Gloria Steinem and several others) that we read about in the second section of the book. While Justice Ginsberg has been an inspiration and trailblazer for nearly two generations now, we read of the respect she has for others that have been so influential on her own life and thought.
What I find truly unique is the concept of the book. is a fascinating mix of Supreme Court writings, historical insights and personal recollections. The expected readings on the rights of women is here but there is also a great deal of the unexpected. The variety of subjects is wonderful as is Ginsburg’s gift for detail.