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A Mighty Justice: 11 Books & Films About the Indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg

A Mighty Girl's celebrates Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her 86th birthday!

Supreme Court Justice, lawyer, women's rights advocate, and pop culture icon: Ruth Bader Ginsburg means so much to so many people! Whether you first encountered her name in discussions of women's rights court decisions or on websites proclaiming her Notorious RBG, there's no doubting her influence on today's world. In honor of this influential — and inspirational — lawyer, activist and Supreme Court Justice, we're sharing her powerful story, as well as our favorite books and films about this trailblazer for both children and adults. We've also highlighted a few fun resources, from t-shirts to music albums, showing how she's become such an important pop culture figure. So whether you've been a long-time fan, or you're just learning about her incredible story, we're confident you'll find something here to deepen your appreciation of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg!

A life in the law

Young RBG Columbia Law Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1980.

Born Joan Ruth Bader in Brooklyn, New York in 1933, Ginsburg excelled at school, in part thanks to the encouragement of her mother, Celia Bader, who died of cancer the day before Ginsburg's high school graduation. She went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in government at Cornell University in 1954 as the highest-ranking female student in her graduating class. A month after graduating, she married  Martin D. Ginsburg, but neither she nor her husband believed that married life meant the end of her career aspirations as was common at the time. Ginsburg enrolled at Harvard Law School in 1956 as one of nine women in a class of 500; the Dean reportedly asked all the female students, including Ginsburg, "How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?"

She transferred to Columbia Law School when her husband took a position in New York City. Although she graduated tied for first in her class in 1959 and had a strong recommendation from Harvard Law's Dean, Ginsburg was turned down for a clerkship position for a Supreme Court Justice due to her gender. She took a clerkship with a judge in the New York District Court and later founded the Women's Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal in the U.S. focused on women's rights. During the 1970s, she taught at Columbia Law School where she became the first woman to receive tenure and co-wrote the first law school casebook on sex discrimination.

Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU in 1972 and, as its chief litigator, argued several landmark courses in front of the Supreme Court, including Reed v. Reed which extended the Equal Protection Clause — or equal protection under the law — to women for the first time. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that an Idaho State Code requiring "males must be preferred to females" in selecting administrators of estates or inheritances was discriminatory and unconstitutional. Ginsburg served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for thirteen years until her appointment by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, when she become the second female justice on the Supreme Court.

RBG Now Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her official portrait in 2016.

On the Supreme Court, Ginsburg became famous for delivering searing dissents and for being one of the Court's main advocates for advancing women's rights under the law. As she explained once in an interview: "I was a law school teacher, and that's how I regard my role here with my colleagues, who haven't had the experience of growing up female and don't fully appreciate the arbitrary barriers that have been put in women's way."

Ginsburg has also become known in recent years by a new nickname — Notorious RBG! Originally started as a Tumblr page to honor the Justice, Notorious RBG is a play on words referencing fellow Brooklyn native, the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.. The popular book, Notorious RBG, explores both Ginsburg's influential legal career and her recent rise as a cultural icon. Its co-author, Irin Carmon explains Ginsburg's mass appeal, stating: "I don't think the iconic status that she's achieved could happen without social media at all, because I think the Internet has given young women the opportunity to choose our own heroes."

Today, Ginsburg continues bring her unique perspective and her decades of legal experience to the Supreme Court's judgments. However, when asked, she said there is one major change she wishes she could see in her lifetime: "If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment... a prime part of the history of our Constitution is the story of the extension of constitutional rights to people once ignored or excluded." As the world's oldest written constitution, the U.S. Constitution was written during a period when gender equality was far from being an important societal value. While over time the U.S. has passed many laws protecting women's rights, Ginsburg observed, "Legislation can be repealed. It can be altered... That principle belongs in our Constitution." Moreover, Ginsburg said that when her granddaughters read the Constitution, she would like them to see that the "notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature — I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society."

Books and Movies about Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I Look Up To... Ruth Bader Ginsburg
New!

I Look Up To... Ruth Bader Ginsburg
New!

Written by: Anna Membrino
Illustrated by: Fatti Burke
Recommended Age: 2 - 4

"I look up to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Let me tell you why..." This detailed board book is a great way to introduce babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to a woman you admire! The book distills Ruth Bader Ginsburg's inspiring attributes into page spreads with vibrant illustrations that are appealing for babies and toddlers and text that's interesting enough for preschoolers. Each spread includes a quote from RBG herself! This title from the I Look Up To... series are a great way to encourage girls to follow in these inspiring women's footsteps. For another release from this series, check out I Look Up To... Michelle Obama.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Written by: Debbie Levy
Illustrated by: Elizabeth Baddeley
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

This first-ever children's picture book about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg proves that disagreeing doesn't make you disagreeable! I Dissent tells the story of Ginsburg's many disagreements: arguments against the inequality, discrimination, and unfairness that she saw all around her. Equally importantly, though, Ginsburg's life and friendship show that you can oppose someone's opinion vocally, even ferociously, while still being friends. Inviting and informative, this lively telling of Ginsburg's story encourages young readers to speak up themselves!

No Truth Without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

No Truth Without Ruth: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Written by: Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by: Nancy Zhang
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

Today, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the most respected women in the United States, but there was a time when she had to fight the idea that women didn't measure up to men — both in her own career and in the laws of her country. Ginsburg fought discrimination herself in college, law school, and her work life, and then argued cases that showed that women's inequality was damaging to everyone. This picture book tribute to "Ruthless Ruthie" includes touching personal details and emphasizes how Ginsburg's successes changed her nation.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality

Written by: Jonah Winter
Illustrated by: Stacy Innerst
Recommended Age: 6 - 9

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: During this trial, you will learn about a little girl who had no clue just how important she would become." In this fascinating book, the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is told in the form of a trial, not unlike those that she argued as a lawyer and hears today as a judge. The narrator lays out "the facts of her case" — sexism, anti-Semitism, discrimination against working mothers — and highlights how the "notorious" Ginsburg became a symbol of justice in America. Unique, tongue-in-cheek, and full of heart, this book is a powerful testament to Ginsburg's lasting influence.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Young Readers' Edition

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Young Readers' Edition

Recommended Age: 8 - 13

Middle grade fans of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg can now learn her story in this young readers edition of the best-selling Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg! From her convention-defying choice to continue law school even after marrying and having a family to her blistering dissents from the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, this book explores Ginsburg's influence on both the law and popular culture. Young readers will be fascinated to see how this one determined woman has changed the face of their country over the course of her life.

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Recommended Age: Adults

Ruth Bader Ginsburg made her name as a feminist pioneer long before the Internet was a pop culture phenomenon, but nearly 50 years into her career, an unusual thing happened: Tumblr, and the rest of the Internet, adopted the newly-nicknamed Notorious RBG as a symbol of how far we’ve come — and how much work we still have to do. This fun and informative book combines interviews, annotated dissents from Supreme Court cases, archival documents, and illustrations to create a unique portrait of the woman who has spent decades transforming the way that America sees women. Along the way, readers will be inspired by this dedicated woman’s unyielding strength of will.

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World

Written by: Linda Hirshman
Recommended Age: Adults

Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were the first two women ever to sit at the Supreme Court bench, and while their individual stories are remarkable, equally intriguing is the story of how they supported one another despite their differences. Their friendship transcended political, religious, region, and culture as each of them fought for recognition in a male-dominated profession and strove to make things better for the women who followed after them. Hirshman’s dual biography juggles legal fact and personal anecdote for a rounded and complex look at two remarkable women and their equally remarkable friendship.

My Own Words

My Own Words

Recommended Age: Adults

In her first book since joining the Supreme Court bench 23 years ago, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shares her insights on wide-ranging topics, including including gender equality, the workways of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. The writings included were selected by both Justice Ginsburg and by her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who also provide chapter introductions that give biographical context and even quotes from interviews they have conducted about Ginsburg's life and work. This thoughtful memoir provides an insightful look into the life of one of America’s most influential women.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life
New!

Written by: Jane Sherron de Hart
Recommended Age: Adults

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's pioneering career has made a profound mark on both American law and society. Now, in this definitive biography, meticulously ressearched and fifteen years in the making, admirers of this groundbreaking jurist can learn about the foundational moments of her life, work, and philosophy. When Ginsburg began her study of law, she was one of only a handful of female law students; as a law professor at Rutgers University, she had to hide her second pregnancy or risk losing her job. But her tireless efforts to fight for gender equality have continued to push progress forward. In this substantial work, author Jane Sherron de Hart has produced an intriguing portrait of a justice whose influence, particularly on the lives of American women, cannot be overstated.

The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: American Icon
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The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: American Icon
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Written by: Antonia Felix
Recommended Age: Adults

In honor of the 25th anniversary of her appointment to the Supreme Court, Antonia Felix presents a loving tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg's groundbreaking legal career, pop culture influence, and private life. This pictorial retrospective includes 130 photos from throughout Ginsburg's life, accented with quotes from Ginsburg's interviews, speeches, and legal opinions, as well as references to her unexpected internet fame as the Notorious RBG. Insightful commentary and a foreword by Mimi Leder, the director of the RBG biopic On The Basis Of Sex makes this a stirring and touching look at the life of one of America's trailblazers.

RBG

RBG

Recommended Age: 10 and up

See Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legal legacy — and personal life journey — through her own eyes and the eyes of those who know her best in this stirring documentary of an American trailblazer and icon! As Ginsburg reminisces about her student years, her work with the ACLU's Women's Rights Project, and her years on the bench, she takes a frank look at her own triumphs and foibles. At the same time, others speak about her influence: on the law, on popular culture, and on the way the country thinks about women's rights. Fresh, often funny, and very real, this documentary about the groundbreaking RBG is a must-watch.

Amazon.co.uk

On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex

Recommended Age: 12 and up

When a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg begins her law career, nobody takes a woman lawyer and young mother seriously. But Ginsburg is determined to leave her mark on the law, first as a professor at Rutgers, encouraging her students to see the many ways in which the law discriminates, and then in the landmark Moritz v. Commissioner case. If she can strike down one law that discriminates on the basis of sex — even if that law is discriminating against a man — perhaps she can start to pull apart the fabric of legal inequality. Director Mimi Leder captures the fire and determination that drove Ginsburg to become a tireless advocate for civil rights and gender equality in this exuberant biopic.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg In Pop Culture

RBG Pins

RBG Pins

Recommended Age: 9 and up

Show off your love of the Notorious RBG with this set of pins from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild! This pair features the inimitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg; one pin depicts her face, while the other boldly declares, "I dissent." These brass, nickel-plated, enamel pins are built to last, and come with rubber backs that will ensure your pins stay put. They're the perfect way to pay tribute to a groundbreaking lawyer and an American icon!

Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch

Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch

Recommended Age: 9 and up

Combine crafting with a lesson in feminist icons with this book of cross-stitch patterns by Anna Fleiss and‎ Lauren Mancuso! It combines capsule biographies of each woman with a cross-stitch portrait. A section at the beginning teaches new cross-stitchers the basics, including how to select quality materials for your celebration of these inspiring women. This fun book features patterns for embroidering twenty iconic women — like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, suffragist Susan B. Anthony, author Virginia Woolf, and pop superstar Beyonce — and ten empowering feminist sayings.

Queen RBG Shirt

Queen RBG Shirt

Brand: Ann Arbor
Recommended Age: 13 and up

If Ruth Bader Ginsburg has won you over with her determination, her chutzpah, and her searing dissents, then this shirt makes it clear that you hail Queen RBG! Ginsburg is depicted as the Queen of Hearts — with gavel and law books in hand, of course — on this 50% polyester, 25% ring spun cotton, and 25% rayon shirt from Ann Arbor. The shirt is printed with high quality inks so the print will last. This shirt is available in women's sizes small to 3XL.

Amazon.co.uk

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Action Figure

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Action Figure

Manufacturer: FCTRY
Recommended Age: 13 and up

Get a little inspiration to persist with this 6" action figure of Ruth Bader Ginsburg from FCTRY! This action figure depicts RBG in her judicial robes and distinctive jabot collar, and comes with a removable gavel in her hand. Her arms are articulated so that you can post her out of the box, and her feet are designed so that she stands on any flat surface. Plus, collectors will love that she comes in a resealable box, so you can decide how you want to display this unique piece.

Amazon.co.uk

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Crew Socks

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Crew Socks

Brand: LookHUMAN
Recommended Age: 13 and up

Let Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — AKA the Notorious RBG — guide your path with these fun crew socks from LookHUMAN! These 50% cotton, 45% polyester, 5% Spandex socks feature an all-over print of portraits of RBG on a field of stars and a solid black toe and sole. The fabric is breathable and comfortable, and wicks moisture away on those days you need to stay on your toes. Available in one size which fits most women's shoe sizes 7 to 13.

Notorious RBG in Song

Notorious RBG in Song

Recommended Age: 13 and up

This classical music album honors groundbreaking lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg! Soprana Patrice Michaels, Ginsburg's daughter-in-law performs a nine-song cycle of her own composition, which includes an imagined letter from Ginsburg's mother, a few of Ginsburg's famous dissents, and a poignant letter to Ginsburg from her husband just before he died. Also included are several songs by other composers honoring this trailblazing woman. With a mix of tone from the funny ("Pot Roast a la RBG") to grave ("My Dearest Ruth" which is based on Marty's last letter to her), this is a loving tribute to Ginsburg's life and work.

Notorious RBG Shirt

Notorious RBG Shirt

Brand: Ann Arbor
Recommended Age: 13 and up

Celebrate the toughest woman on the bench with this Notorious RBG shirt from Ann Arbor! This flowy women's shirt has a professionally applied, high quality screen print of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wearing one of her famous collars and a crown, with the words "Notorious RBG" below. This 65% polyester, 35% viscose shirt is comfortable to wear and easy to care for, and is available in women's sizes small to 2XL.

Amazon.co.uk

The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong... And You Can Too!

The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong... And You Can Too!

Written by: Bryant Johnson
Recommended Age: Adults

People know Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her excellent legal mind and her sharp dissenting opinions... but did you know she's also "TAN — tough as nails" according to her personal trainer? For that, she credits Bryant Johnson, the trainer she started seeing to rebuild her strength after cancer treatment. In this light-hearted workout book, Johnson introduces everyone to the workout he created for Ginsburg, leading readers step by step through a simple but challenging series of exercises to build strength and confidence. Illustrated with four-color drawings of Ginsburg in workout gear performing the exercises, and complete with sidebars of Johnson's folksy wisdom about health and fitness, this book will show you how to pump it up just like the Notorious RBG.

Additional Recommended Resources

  • For books for children and teens about more inspiring women who changed the world, visit our Biography Collection.
  • For books about social issues relating to discrimination, visit our Prejudice / Discrimination section.
  • For books celebrating girls and women who aren't afraid to speak up and take a stand, visit our Initiative / Leadership section.

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