8 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes That Define the Supreme Court Justice's Legacy

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died on Friday at the age of 87 due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 following the retirement of former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. For over a decade, until 2009, she was the only woman to hold the position, until Justice Sonia Sotomayor was appointed by President Barack Obama. Justice Elena Kagan joined the court the following year.

Ginsburg's life was marked by cancer beginning at a young age. In 1956, while they were both students at Harvard Law School, Ginsburg's husband, Martin, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Remarkably, Ginsburg managed to garner a spot on the editorial board of the Harvard Law Review while caring for him and their infant daughter, Jane.

In 1999 she was herself diagnosed with cancer and underwent a successful operation to remove the disease from her colon. In 2009, she underwent another operation, this time for pancreatic cancer. In 2018, she missed oral arguments for the first time in 25 years while recovering from surgery to remove tumors on her lungs.

In August 2019, the Supreme Court announced in a statement that Ginsburg was undergoing radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer in New York. "The tumor was treated definitively, and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body," the court's statement read. In November, she once again missed court due to a stomach virus.

Referred to by admirers as the "Notorious RBG," she was a pioneering force in calls for marriage and gender equality. Read on for a list of eight memorable quotes that helped define the Supreme Court Justice's legacy.

RBG
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attends California first lady Maria Shriver's annual Women's Conference 2010 on October 26, 2010. She passed away on TKTK at the age of TKTK. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

"My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent. The study of law was unusual for women of my generation. For most girls growing up in the '40s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S."—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as cited by the ACLU

"So now the perception is, yes, women are here to stay. And when I'm sometimes asked 'When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?' and I say 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that."—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking at the 10th Circuit Bench & Bar Conference in 2012

"Dissents speak to a future age. It's not simply to say, 'My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.' But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that's the dissenter's hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow." —Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a 2002 interview with NPR's Nina Totenberg

"The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government."Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her 2012 book,My Own Words

"Yet what greater defeat could we suffer than to come to resemble the forces we oppose in their disrespect for human dignity?"—Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her 2012 book, My Own Words

"In recent years, people have said, 'This is the way I am.' And others looked around, and we discovered it's our next-door neighbor—we're very fond of them, or it's our child's best friend, or even our child. I think that as more and more people came out and said that 'this is who I am,' the rest of us recognized that they are one of us."Ruth Bader Ginsburg on marriage equality in a 2015 interview with Bloomberg

"I wasn't 100 percent sober."—Ruth Bader Ginsburg on "nodding off" during former President Obama's State of the Union Address in 2015

"Feminism...I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, 'Free To Be You and Me.' Free to be, if you were a girl—doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you're a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that's OK too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers—manmade barriers, certainly not heaven sent."—Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a 2012 interview with MAKERS