This Day In History: August 10

Changing the day will navigate the page to that given day in history. You can navigate days by using left and right arrows

On August 10, 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg becomes the second woman—and first Jewish woman—to serve on the Supreme Court. Already a champion for women’s rights, Ginsburg becomes a pop culture icon during her 27 years on the court.

When President Bill Clinton nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in June, 1993, she was already a familiar figure at the court. A child of immigrants born in Brooklyn, she graduated from Cornell University and Columbia Law School while raising two children with her husband, Marty Ginsburg. After her law school graduation, Ginsburg clerked for federal district judge Edmund L. Palmieri, studied the Swedish legal system and began working for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she founded the women's civil rights project. As an ACLU attorney, she argued six cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1978. Of these six cases, she won five.

Ginsburg was the second female professor at Rutgers University and the first female tenured professor at Columbia, before President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit in 1980. After her nomination by Bill Clinton, she was confirmed in a 96-3 vote by the Senate, and took her seat on the Supreme Court on August 10, 1993.

Ginsburg's career as a lawyer and judge led to dramatic changes in American law and advancements for women's rights. As an attorney with the ACLU in the 1970s, she worked to convince the all-male U.S. Supreme Court that civil rights legislation—and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment—should apply to women in addition to racial and ethnic minorities. In 1971, she successfully litigated the case Reed v Reed, in which the court invalidated a state law on the basis of unlawful gender discrimination. This was the first time that discrimination on the basis of sex was considered a topic relevant to constitutional law. Ginsburg's work in the 1970s ushered in sweeping changes to American tax and family law, striking down many existing statutes as discriminatory. The goal, as one of Ginsburg's former clerks described it, was "equal citizenship stature" for men and women under U.S. law.

When Ginsburg first joined the Supreme Court in 1993, some feminists and liberals worried she would be too centrist as a justice. Ginsburg had been critical of the legal reasoning behind Roe v. Wade, and Bill Clinton praised her as a "force for consensus-building" on the circuit court. However, as the court became more conservative in the 2000s, Ginsburg gained notoriety for her fiery dissenting opinions. "Some of my favorite opinions are dissenting opinions," Ginsburg told NPR. "I will not live to see what becomes of them, but I remain hopeful."

Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020, and was replaced on the court by Trump appointee Amy Coney Barrett.