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In Praise of the New RBG Documentary

In Praise of the New RBG Documentary

By Judy Freedman

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Give me an R!

Give me a B!

Give me a G!

What does that spell?

RBG, the title of the new documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This documentary is a must see for every woman. I feel honored to have gone to the same alma mater, Cornell University, as Justice Ginsburg. She is truly "Notorious RBG," as the younger feminists call her.

At 84 years old, having survived two bouts of cancer (colon and pancreatic), she is still sharp and strong. She even has a personal trainer. If you want to practice her workout routine, there's a book about it.


Justice Ginsburg mid workout routine in RBG, a Magnolia Pictures release. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

I had an opportunity to screen the new "RBG" documentary this week. I was captured from the first five minutes and stayed up past midnight to watch the entire film. (Note: To see the trailer click on this link.)

It's amazing how much we take for granted regarding today's women's rights. It wasn't always that way. From getting a credit card to getting a loan, a man's signature was required in the early '70s.

As A.O. Scott wrote in his The New York Times review, "The idea that women are equal citizens—that barring them from certain jobs and educational opportunities and treating them as the social inferiors of men are unfair—may not seem especially controversial now. 'RBG' uses Justice Ginsburg's own experiences to emphasize how different things weren't so long ago."

A Smart Student
"My mother told me to be a lady and be independent," Justice Ginsburg said. Sadly, her mother died when she was only 17. But it's clear that she followed through on her advice, going to Cornell University for an undergraduate degree, then Harvard Law School and eventually graduating from Columbia Law School. She said that women suppressed how smart they were in the 1950s.


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. Courtesy of CNN Films.

When she went to Cornell there were four men to every woman. (It was up to three to one when I attended in the '70s.) "It was considered an ideal place to send daughters," said Justice Ginsburg. She did indeed meet her husband, Marty Ginsburg, there and was married to him for 63 years.

She followed Marty to Harvard Law and after his graduation to New York City, where he got a job. When she went to Harvard Law in 1957 she was one of nine women in a class of 500 students. Plus, she came to Harvard Law as a mother of a 14-month-old daughter. Wow-o-wow!

Her granddaughter, who graduated last year, said women make up 50 percent of the population at Harvard Law now. How times have changed!


Justice Ginsburg with her granddaughter in RBG, a Magnolia Pictures release. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

When she eventually transferred to Columbia Law School and graduated, she said no one would hire her. "Being a woman was an impediment," said Justice Ginsburg.

Change Happens One Step at a Time
In the 1960s she taught at Rutgers University and in the 1970s went on to fight for equal rights for women. She won five out of the six cases on gender equality in front of the Supreme Court.


Her husband, Marty, was very supportive of her career and played a major parenting role with their two children, oftentimes doing the cooking when she was in court.

In 1980, she became a circuit court judge in District of Columbia. In 1993, President Clinton nominated her to become the 107th judge of the Supreme Court.


Photo of the Supreme Court Justices, c. 1993, in RBG, a Magnolia Pictures release. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

The rest is history, as they say. She is truly a remarkable woman.

Give me an R! Give me a B! Give me a G!

What does that spell?

"RBG," the title of the new documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Go see it!

This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.

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