Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg was born Ruth Joan Bader on March 15, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York. The second daughter of Nathan and Celia Bader, she grew up in a low-income, working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn.

At Harvard Law School, Ginsburg encountered a very male-dominated, hostile environment, with only eight other females in her class of more than 500. The women were chided by the law school’s dean for taking the places of qualified males. But Ginsburg pressed on and excelled academically, eventually becoming the first female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

To join her husband in New York City, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School, where she was elected to the school’s law review. She graduated first in her class in 1959. Despite her outstanding academic record, however, Ginsburg continued to encounter gender discrimination while seeking employment after graduation.

Ginsburg taught at Rutgers University Law School (1963–72) and at Columbia (1972–80), where she became the school’s first female tenured professor. During the 1970s, she also served as the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, for which she argued six landmark cases on gender equality before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1980 President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. She served there until she was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, selected to fill the seat vacated by Justice Byron White.

Ginsburg appeared at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival to accompany the premiere of the documentary RBG. She also gave her seal of approval for Kate McKinnon’s sassy portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live, noting, “I would like to say ‘Ginsburned’ sometimes to my colleagues.” In 2016 Ginsburg released My Own Words, a memoir that consists of her writings that date as far back as her junior high school years. The book became a New York Times Best Seller.