My Own Words “showcases Ruth Ginsburg’s astonishing intellectual range” (The New Republic). In this collection Justice Ginsburg discusses gender equality, the workings of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been (and continues to be) a prolific writer and public speaker. This book’s sampling is selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who introduce each chapter and provide biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted.
Witty, engaging, serious, and playful, My Own Words is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of America’s most influential women and “a tonic to the current national discourse” (The Washington Post).
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About the Author
Mary Hartnett is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law, focusing on international women’s human rights.
Wendy W. Williams is Professor Emerita at Georgetown Law, best known for her work in the area of gender and law, especially concerning issues of work and family.
Read an Excerpt
My Own Words
ELEANOR ROOSEVELT had been the first lady throughout most of Ruth Bader’s childhood. Ruth’s mother, who deeply admired the first lady, often read Mrs. Roosevelt’s “My Day” newspaper columns aloud to Ruth. Eight months after President Roosevelt’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt was appointed by President Truman as a U.S. delegate to the newly established United Nations General Assembly. The UN Charter, in its preamble, declared as one of its aims “to regain faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” Eleanor Roosevelt, pursuant to that goal, became in April 1946 the first chairperson of the newly created U.N. Commission on Human Rights. In the wake of World War II, Ruth and her mother followed closely as Eleanor Roosevelt led the efforts that would result, in 1948, in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document Roosevelt celebrated as “the international Magna Carta for all mankind.”
Two months after Eleanor Roosevelt was chosen to head the UN Commission on Human Rights, Ruth Bader, by then a thirteen-year-old eighth grader and editor of her school newspaper, the Highway Herald, wrote a column of her own. Her column, the first piece in this collection, was a sign of things to come. While other students wrote about the circus, school plays, and the glee club, Ruth discussed the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and United Nations Charter.
Highway Herald, June 1946
Published by Pupils of Elementary Public School 238, Brooklyn, New York
Editorial by Ruth Bader, Grade 8B1
Since the beginning of time, the world has known four great documents, great because of all the benefits to humanity which came about as a result of their fine ideals and principles.
The first was the Ten Commandments, which was given to Moses while he was leading the Israelites through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. Today people of almost every religion respect and accept them as a code of ethics and a standard of behavior.
Up until the thirteenth century, conditions under the kings of Europe were unbearable for the commoners. Taxation was high, living conditions poor and justice unknown. It was then, in 1215 AD, that the barons and peers of England met and drew up a charter called the Magna Carta. After forcing King John to sign it, the document was declared the governing law of the land. This gave the English peasants the first rights ever granted to them.
When William of Orange, a Dutchman, was offered the English throne, his chief ambition was to use the military powers of Britain to aid his beloved Holland in its war with Spain. In accepting this offer, he had to grant certain concessions to the English people. So, in 1689, he signed the Bill of Rights. This limited the King’s powers and gave much of the government control to parliament, another important stride in the history of the world.
The Declaration of Independence of our own U.S. may well be considered one of the most important steps in the shaping of the world. It marked the birth of a new nation, a nation that has so grown in strength as to take its place at the top of the list of the world’s great powers.
And now we have a fifth great document, the Charter of the United Nations. Its purpose and principles are to maintain international peace and security, to practice tolerance, and to suppress any acts of aggression or other breaches of peace.
It is vital that peace be assured, for now we have a weapon that can destroy the world. We children of public school age can do much to aid in the promotion of peace. We must try to train ourselves and those about us to live together with one another as good neighbors for this idea is embodied in the great new Charter of the United Nations. It is the only way to secure the world against future wars and maintain an everlasting peace.
Table of Contents
A Note on Sources 11
Preface Ruth Bader Ginsburg 13
Part 1 Early Years and Lighter Side
1 Editorial for the School Newspaper (Highway Herald) 39
2 One People (Editorial, East Midwood Bulletin) 45
3 Wiretapping: Cure Worse than Disease? (Letter to the Editor, Cornell Daily Sun) 54
4 Marty Ginsburg's Favorite Subject (Remarks Introducing Justice Ginsburg) 61
5 Law and Lawyers in Opera 71
6 Remembering Justice Scalia 80
7 The Scalia/Ginsburg Opera 87
8 The Lighter Side of Life at the Supreme Court 104
Part 2 Tributes to Waypavers and Pathmarkers
1 Belva Lockwood 117
2 Women's Progress at the Bar and on the Bench 123
3 From Benjamin to Brandeis to Breyer: Is There a Jewish Seat on the United States Supreme Court? 137
4 Three Brave Jewish Women 149
5 Sandra Day O'Connor 154
6 Gloria Steinem 161
7 Remembering Great Ladies: Supreme Court Wives' Stories 163
Part 3 On Gender Equality: Women and the Law
1 Women and the Law: A Symposium Introduction 195
2 How the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Got My Wife Her Good Job 206
3 The Frontiero Reply Brief 213
4 The Need for the Equal Rights Amendment 225
5 The VMI Bench Announcement 241
6 Advocating the Elimination of Gender-Based Discrimination 247
Part 4 A Judge Becomes a Justice
1 Rose Garden Acceptance Speech 285
2 Senate Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement 294
Part 5 The Justice on Judging and Justice
1 Workways of the Supreme Court 329
2 Judicial Independence 349
3 Tribute to Chief Justice Rehnquist 359
4 The Madison Lecture: Speaking in a Judicial Voice 368
5 "A Decent Respect to the Opinions of [Human]kind": The Value of a Comparative Perspective in Constitutional Adjudication 400
6 Human Dignity and Equal Justice Under Law
a Brown v. Board of Education in International Context 417
b Remarks on Loving v. Virginia 426
c Remarks on the Value of Diversity: International Affirmative Action 431
7 The Role of Dissenting Opinions 443
a Remarks on the Role of Dissenting Opinions 446
b Bench Dissent Announcements (Ledbetter, Vance, Shelby County, Fisher, National Federation of Independent Business, Hobby Lobby, Carhart) 460
8 Highlights of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015-16 Term 509
Illustration Credits 577
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"My Own Words" was a fascinating look into Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life and legal history. Using actual speeches and writings plus introductions into the history leading up to each, this is a unique piece of work that highlights the many changes in law and advancements in gender/racial equality that have happened since RBG entered the scene in the 50s. It also highlights how far we still have to go. I found the Loving v. Virginia section to be one of the most interesting- it really made the case come alive for me and brought new context to something we have all heard of, but I personally did not live through. I also really enjoyed the bit about the opera written about her and other justices- with the songs on the audiobook, this added some fun to an overall serious book. Overall, I thought this was a great book to highlight some of the US legal past plus RBG's role in the legal scene as she worked for the ACLU and then on the Supreme Court. The personal tidbits were also great- including what the children said of Ruth and husband Marty (paraphrasing, but that they were very equal- he did the cooking and she the thinking). I highly recommend the audiobook also, which also allows the reader to hear the primary speeches and so on. It was a great and worthwhile listen.
My HERO!! What an awesome, compassionate, brilliant mind!!!! I buzzed through this book like it was candy!!!!