I had a dream last night that my mother had died. Even within the dream, I was confused because in reality, my mother died in 2012. Most of the dream was spent grieving for my mother and talking with my siblings about how to move forward. When I awoke this morning, I recalled the dream and was very confused. I rarely dream about my mother, and I couldn’t figure out what led me to dream about her. But then I remembered that last night just before I went to bed, I found out that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away. And then I realized that she was the “mother” in my dream. You see, Justice Ginsburg was a stand-in mother for many women in this country. We assigned to her all sorts of superpowers that we all wish that we had. She embodied such a fierce spirit. It’s always interesting to see who’s passing creates some of the biggest sadness in the country. John Lewis’s passing was similar in that he also fought for equality. We understand that those who fight for equality have given a great gift to all of us and to our country.
I am 57 years old, and I grew up in the generation of women who really believed that we could be whatever we wanted if we worked hard enough. When I first became aware of pop music, one of the top songs was Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” (hear me roar), and I loved it!. We were the first generation of women who had sexual freedom because both contraception became more widely available and abortion was legalized when I was 10 years old. So Justice Ginsburg really changed the world for me and our entire generation of women through her tireless, careful, and dogged determination to secure equality under the law for women.
When I think about Justice Ginsburg and my own mother who are of the same generation, the difference couldn’t be more striking. While my mother would have probably excelled in law school, that was never an option for her. And while Justice Ginsburg married Marty Ginsburg who adored her and encouraged her in every way, my mother did not have such a husband. Part of Justice Ginsburg’s biography says that even though she scored very high on the civilian tests, she was only able to secure work as a typist. My own mother who was very smart, the valedictorian of her high school class, and graduated from Boston University magna cum laude, always worked as an administrative assistant. She was never able to move up the ladder beyond that position. So I witnessed a smart woman who was stymied by the sexism that was in place as she worked. I am so thankful to Justice Ginsburg for challenging long-held beliefs and making it possible for my generation of women and those to come to be able to pursue our own paths with the law supporting us.
Originally published at https://chaiselounge.substack.com.