When one is the first at anything, especially when one is a minority or disenfranchised, they are often labelled as a hero to those who they have paved the way for. But behind that bold heroism is years, if not decades of drive, hard work and fighting against prejudice.
Linda Hirshman’s 2016 book, Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World, tells the story of the lives and careers of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who were the first and second women to join the Supreme Court respectively.
On the surface, the women couldn’t have been further apart. Sandra Day O’Connor was born into a Christian family who owned a large ranch in Arizona. Ruth Bader Ginsburg grew up in an immigrant Jewish family in New York City. Coming of age in era when a woman was expected to marry and raise a family while her husband brought home the literal bacon, both women defied the rules of their era by earning law degrees and dared to openly question why women were second class citizens.
Along the way, they inspired and continue to inspire generations of women in every industry to fight for their rights and the equality that is their right.
What struck me about this book is that though both Justice Ginsburg and Justice O’Connor had very different early lives, they are remarkably similar in the paths they took, the challenges they faced and the paths they blazed for future generations of women.
Though this book has moments of being a dry academic style textbook, it is also a reminder of how far women have come and how far we need to go.
I recommend it.