politics

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's love story will melt your heart

By Breeanna Hare

Published August 24, 2018

In 1950, 17-year-old Ruth Bader –– who wasn’t yet a Ginsburg or dreaming of becoming a Supreme Court justice –– enrolled in college at Cornell University.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is pictured here in 1948. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.

“Cornell was a preferred school for daughters. In those days, there was a strict quota for women. There were four men to every woman, so for parents Cornell was the ideal place to send a girl. If she couldn’t find her man there, she was hopeless."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg jokes in CNN Films' "RBG"

CNN Films

CNN Films

But then she met 18-year-old Martin Ginsburg –– a.k.a., "Marty." Unlike other men at the time, Marty wasn’t intimidated or threatened by her intelligence. He cherished it, and treated Ruth as his equal.

Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg's Personal Collection

CNN Films

Marty and Ruth were married in 1954, the same year she graduated from Cornell. They both went on to law school at Harvard.

Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg's Personal Collection

They were complete opposites –– she was quiet and reserved while Marty was the gregarious life of the party. “But they worked,” longtime friend Arthur Miller says in the CNN Film “RBG.”

CNN Films

By 1957, Ruth was a Harvard law school student –– and one of only 9 women in a class of 500+ men. She was also mother to her toddler daughter Jane, and caring for a husband battling testicular cancer.

“It’s when she learned how to burn the candle at both ends."

Nina Totenberg

in CNN Films' “RBG"

Getty Images

When Marty recovered and graduated from Harvard, he got a job in New York. Ruth and their daughter Jane went with him, and Ruth enrolled at Columbia Law. She graduated tied for first in her class. And yet …

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“When I graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959, not a law firm in the entire city of New York would employ me."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg's Personal Collection

But with Marty's support, Ruth pressed on. Soon enough, while Marty practiced tax law, Ruth fought to end gender bias and sex discrimination in front of the Supreme Court.

Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg's Personal Collection

“I became a lawyer in days when women were not wanted by most members of the legal profession. I became a lawyer because Marty supported that choice unreservedly."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

CNN Films

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The couple –– who by then had two kids, Jane and James –– relocated to D.C. to support her career.

CNN Films

Ruth described Marty as her "best friend and biggest booster,” and in 1993 the New York Times reported on Marty’s persistent advocating for his life partner. Ruth joined the Supreme Court that year.

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"I have been supportive of my wife since the beginning of time, and she has been supportive of me. It's not sacrifice; it's family."

Marty Ginsburg

New York Times, 1993

Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg's Personal Collection

CNN Films

Marty passed away from cancer complications in 2010. Ruth says of him today, “meeting Marty was by far the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me.”

CNN Films

For more, watch CNN Films' "RBG" on Sunday, September 9 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

The Washington Post/Getty Images