The Notorious RBG

Role models can be a source of inspiration and encouragement. When you think about who inspires you, you may think about their accomplishments, character and how they approach challenges. We hope to learn from these pioneering individuals and draw from their experiences in our own work.

High on my list of role models is the “quiet-voiced, but steel-spined icon” Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Ginsburg as the second woman and first Jewish woman to the US Supreme Court. Ginsburg’s life and career have inspired the nickname “Notorious RBG”, a moniker with a devoted Tumblr page, merchandise, biography, Saturday Night Live skit, even a Halloween “Ruth Baby Ginsburg.” Her popularity comes from more than her ability to accessorize dress robes – long before her appointment to the Supreme Court, she was an advocate for women and gender equality.

RBG was one of only nine women in her class of 500 students at Harvard Law School in 1956. In a small welcome dinner, the school’s dean made each woman explain why they deserved to be at the school taking a seat that could have gone to a man. Even after graduating at the top of her class, she was rejected by numerous firms who refused to hire a woman. Not one to accept a setback, RBG co-founded the Women’s Rights Project to challenge the gender stereotypes written in law, fighting for both women and men. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals where she served for 13 years until she took her seat in the Supreme Court.

In reflecting on her journey, she remarked, “So often in life, things you regard as an impediment turn out to be a great good fortune.” Had it not been for the rejection from law firms early on, she may never have been appointed to her current position and impacted so many lives throughout her legal career.

I owe her, and many other great women, a debt of gratitude for their work overcoming gender barriers and her determination is a source of continuous encouragement when I reach challenging situations.

Who do you look toward when you need inspiration? Learn more about the Notorious RBG and other influential women here.

Kaitlyn Boller is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Alexa McKenna

I’ve obviously heard of Ruth Ginsburg but I didn’t know much about her background and the barriers she overcame. She truly is an inspirational woman.


The discrimination RBG faced coming up continued long afterward, and continues today. 20 years after she graduated from Law School, the Number One student in my class — all 3 years — also could not even land an interview with the big firms in Dallas. Our Women Law Students Association had to sue the 6 largest firms. As a result, our “Number One” got hired by one of them, where she later made partner, and is now a Federal Judge who would be wonderful — ultimately — on the Supreme Court. The senior partner at the firm that hired her told me later that hiring her was the best thing they had ever done. My Dear Sisters, don’t ever give up; the struggle continues.