News of Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Friday at age 87 sent shockwaves through the nation. Ginsburg, who became the second woman to serve in the Supreme Court, became a feminist icon and saw late-life stardom after the 2018 documentary “RBG.”
But Ginsburg didn’t succeed on her own. She drew strong support from her husband, who died in 2010.
Martin “Marty” Ginsburg was considered an unconventional partner for Ruth throughout her judicial career. The couple met when Ruth was 17 years old and they married one month after she graduated from Cornell University in 1954.
Marty, a Jewish attorney from Brooklyn specializing in tax law, often boasted of his wife’s successes, such as when she made the Law Review at Harvard. He also frequently cooked for their children, Jane and James, during a time when men shied away from domestic duties.
“I learned very early on in our marriage that Ruth was a fairly terrible cook and, for lack of interest, unlikely to improve,” Marty said in a 1996 speech. “This seemed to me comprehensible; my mother was a fairly terrible cook also. Out of self-preservation, I decided I had better learn to cook because Ruth, to quote her precisely, was expelled from the kitchen by her food-loving children nearly a quarter-century ago.”
Marty and Ruth took turns in raising their children.
“In the course of a marriage, one accommodates the other,” Ruth said in 2015 on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
“So, for example, when Marty was intent on becoming a partner in a New York law firm in five years, during that time, I was the major caretaker of our home and child. But when I started up the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, Marty realized how important that work was.”
Marty worked hard to campaign for Ruth to be on the Supreme Court. His efforts came to fruition when President Bill Clinton appointed her to the highest court in the land in 1993.
Marty also stood by his wife through numerous health challenges.
“My first two cancer bouts — both colorectal cancer at Washington Hospital Center and pancreatic cancer at Sloan Kettering — Marty stayed with me,” Ruth told NPR in July 2019. “He stayed with me in the hospital sleeping on an uncomfortable couch despite his bad back. And I knew that someone was there who really cared about me and would make sure that things didn’t go wrong.”
Marty died of cancer in June 2010 at 78. Shortly before his death, he left a note to his wife.
“You are the only person I have loved in my life, setting aside, a bit, parents and kids and their kids, and I have admired and loved you almost since the day we first met at Cornell some 56 years ago,” Marty wrote in the letter to Ruth. “What a treat it has been to watch you progress to the very top of the legal world!!”
Justice Ginsburg was an advocate for women’s rights and equality throughout her life.
“People ask me sometimes, when—when do you think it will be enough? When will there be enough women on the court?” Ginsburg said in 2015 at Georgetown Law School.
“And my answer is when there are nine.”
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