Justice Ginsburg's passing on Friday has women activists thinking about how to best continue her legacy.
Justice Ginsburg's passing on Friday has women activists thinking about how to best continue her legacy (Graphic by Denzel Boyd).

Women activists across the country working to prevent gun violence, sexual assault, and more share how they want Americans to keep Justice Ginsburg’s legacy alive.

On Friday, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—a pillar of women’s rights (and recent pop culture icon)—marked a somber and pivotal moment for the future of gender equality and civil rights in the United States.

Justice Ginsburg was an icon for millions of women in the US—and around the world—who yearned for women leaders courageous enough to stand up to attempts to impede on the rights of women and marginalized communities. 

Only the second woman in US history to serve on the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg routinely ruled in favor of reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, and against the oppression of communities of color. 

But upon news of her death, millions of women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color flooded social media to express their fear that her legacy would be threatened. Despite Ginsburg’s dying wish to have her seat replaced after the upcoming presidential election, President Donald Trump and the Republican Senate are expected to appoint a conservative justice—who could threaten Ginsburg’s legacy—before November 3.

While the future may seem bleak without Justice Ginsburg on the court, the fight for women’s rights and civil rights continues. Ginsburg’s famous quote, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks,” is now a rallying cry for women prepared to preserve and protect her legacy.

To shine a light on the road ahead, COURIER spoke with women activists—pioneers in their own right—on how Ginsburg inspired them to take action and how they intend to protect her legacy. Here’s what they have to say, in their own words.

Amanda Nguyen: Executive Director of Rise and 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

Amanda Nguyen of Rise (image courtesy Amanda Nguyen).

Founded in 2014, Rise is a civil rights organization dedicated to preserving and advocating for the rights of sexual assault survivors. Nguyen, a survivor herself, established the organization’s mission: to protect the civil rights of over 25 million rape survivors in the United States and bring their issues to Congress. Since its founding, Rise has helped pass the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights in more than 22 states and helped establish the first Sexual Violence Survivors’ Rights Resolution in the United Nations General Assembly.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg meant so much to me, as I’m sure she meant to so, so many people.

I remember her photo in front of Harvard Law School, where she is surrounded by other men, and I related so much to that. So often, I’ve walked into a space and felt so isolated, felt like I had to work five times as hard to get half as far, and I am so deeply grateful for all of the rights and privileges that I and so many women have today because of her legacy. It’s because of her work.

I know that so many people are disheartened and uncertain about this country’s future right now—especially after her death. But I want you to know that the Justice was actually really optimistic.

She worked her entire life on pushing the boundaries, and that’s what we have to do. Her legacy is a living legacy. It flows through all of us, and it’s up to us to continue to march on. No one is powerless when we come together, and no one is invisible when we demand to be seen.

Ruth is seeing us now, so let’s fulfill her legacy and keep on keeping on.

Isabelle Datz: Anti-Gun Violence Activist, Students Demand Action For Gun Safety

Isabelle Datz of Students Demand Action for Gun Safety (image courtesy Everytown for Gun Safety).

Isabelle Datz is a Students Demand Action for Gun Safety volunteer in Florida. Students Demand Action is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest organization advocating for gun violence prevention in the US. It aims to end gun violence by supporting state and federal laws in favor of gun safety, educating policymakers and members of the press, and informing and mobilizing the general public.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Her legacy set the stage for many prominent women in every career.

She led a similar life to my mother. Since they were female lawyers during the 20th century, colleagues did not take them seriously. RBG and my mother proved them wrong. They proved that a woman can do just as well—if not better than—the men in their area of business.

With that being said, I will continue to honor her memory by also standing up and speaking out on what I am most passionate about. With my voice, as well as all of the volunteers of Everytown Students Demand Action and Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety. We have spread awareness of the issues of gun violence in America, and we’re so happy to have RBG dismantle the gun lobby’s argument when it reached the Supreme Court.

I will honor her legacy by breaking societal norms on what the limits are for women, by working hard, and never giving up.

One thing I would like to say for women who are disheartened or uncertain about the future in this country: Your feelings are valid. I am worried as well. However, that just gives just us even more of a reason to honor her legacy. Get out of your comfort zone. Find a way you can be politically active, whether it is registering people to vote or joining an organization you are passionate about.

You can do this. You can be the next RBG.

Dani Brzozowski: Democratic Candidate in Illinois’ 16th Congressional District

Dani Brzozowski is Democrat running for Congress in IL-16 (image courtesy Dani Brzozowski).

Dani Brzozowski is an activist-turned-Democratic-politician running for Congress in Illinois’ 16th District this year. She was recently endorsed by renowned feminist and activist Gloria Steinem for her belief in women having the “right to make our own reproductive decisions” and dedication to making “women equal under the Constitution.” Brzozowski has also pledged to keep Ginsburg’s legacy alive by fighting for Roe v. Wade to be written into law, offering reproductive healthcare for the transgender community, and to ensure that birth control and STI testing is easily accessible and affordable for everyone.

The loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is devastating. We’ve lost a titan of justice. And I think for so many of us, it feels like RBG was the finger in the dam, holding back this country’s very worst impulses. In some ways it feels like we’ve lost everything. But that’s not true.

We have RBG’s legacy to uphold, all of the progress for which she fought doggedly, tirelessly, and passionately, that is her legacy. And it’s to each and every one of us to carry it on to ensure that the progress she made is not undone.

I say to every single one of you out there who feels the great weight of this tremendous loss, that there’s more to do, and not just a little bit, but a lot.

Let each of our voices be louder and stronger for having been amplified by hers. And let us be emboldened and empowered, knowing that her spirit lives in each of us with every action we take for equality and justice. 

We do not have the luxury of moments to give to silence. From here, we have to fight like hell.

Editor’s Note: Activist statements have been edited for clarity.