It's been more than a week since Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death on Sept. 18, and Americans continue to mourn the loss of the feminist icon. Her nearly 30 years on the Supreme Court, where she ruled on issues like LGBTQ+ rights, gender discrimination, and reproductive rights, solidified her as a champion for gender equality. After her death, many people are wondering — what now? For these young women, honoring RBG’s legacy is about thinking of the future.
Ginsburg’s long legacy of championing gender equality spread across decades, including years as a lawyer fighting discrimination long before she was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993. Her contributions to America include landmark opinions on equal pay, pregnancy discrimination, reproductive rights, and marriage equality. Before she passed away, her last wish, as communicated to her granddaughter, was that she “will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” She fostered a sense of hope in this country to change the political landscape and advance progressive policies. Now, young activists want to carry on her wish and forward momentum, translating it into action when Americans cast their ballots in November.
Elite Daily spoke to 12 young women across the nation about their reactions to RBG’s death and the legacy she left behind. Here’s what they have to say about upholding the former Supreme Court justice’s legacy this election season.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Valerie C., 20
Ruth Bader Ginsburg dedicated her life to uplifting the women of future generations, women like my mother, women like me. RBG ensured my mother could attend medical school, and now it’s possible for me to explore my passions to the fullest extent, to be paid equal to a man, to explore family life (in the future!), and advance my career.
With her passing, I promised myself to do as she did, and keep future generations in mind while navigating my life. I want to ask myself, "What can I do to help women of the future?" For me, that will be obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing, higher education in public policy, and transitioning into forming health care policy. Ruth Bader Ginsburg dedicated her life to the future, and so I promise to do the same. I will not let the energy of women’s empowerment die with me. Women will always lift each other up.
Honoring RBG’s legacy is multifold. First and foremost, voting is essential. Other actions we all can do are things like helping friends register to vote, arranging car rides to voting polls, organizing advocacy and awareness events at our universities, and petitioning to cancel classes on Election Day. I took it one step further and started my own nonprofit, The College Voter, to emphasize voting and decrease polarization on college campuses. Movements only become successful through daily action — one big push or action isn’t enough. Ruth Bader Ginsburg dedicated her life to her work. It took more than one day, one week, one year to succeed. Even if it takes time, the best way to honor her legacy is to not give up. Ever. If life throws you the biggest curveball, you do not give up. You readjust and you blaze forward.
Isra Q., 15
North Potomac, Maryland
The first thing I felt when I read about Justice Ginsburg's death was fear. Fear for what might be coming for people like me: women of color, Muslims, families with immigrants, and anyone that had ever had their rights threatened by conservative rulings made by the Supreme Court. Not only is her immense presence gone, but the security she represents, too. I simply cannot imagine what may become of our nation as a result of her passing, and frankly, it frightens me to even think of it.
I’ve been an organizer for a few years, and RBG’s death has only lit a new fire in me. I've spent the days since her passing sending emails, signing petitions, and doing as much as I possibly can to ensure that her legacy of protecting those who are vulnerable stays a priority — not only in our courts, but the United States as a whole. Though I won’t be able to vote in this election, there are so many people around me who can, and I'll be using the information I have to get them to use that opportunity.
Kavita R., 19
Los Angeles, California
I’m an advocate for global gender equality, and at age 18, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I felt like I couldn’t empower others or advocate on behalf of girls globally when I inherently felt disempowered. I felt like my cancer overshadowed everything else I was. Through RBG’s dedication to continue with as much normalcy as possible after her own cancer diagnosis, I realized cancer doesn't get to reduce the layers to my identities, passions, and dedications either. Persevering through harsh treatment should never be glamorized, but for me and many other cancer patients, she showed me cancer does not get to erase everything I was before it.
In honor of RBG’s legacy, I will not only vote, but I will also organize. Community organizing looks different amid a pandemic, but I’ve been finding innovative ways to educate and engage my community in local politics and elections. As founder and director of Justice in the Classroom, a student-powered movement for education equity in California, our group has been mobilizing young people to not only register to vote, but understand how change can happen outside of voting through grassroots organizing. To other young people, I recommend starting with your community. Whether it's registering five friends to vote or hosting a virtual town hall with local candidates, there’s always work to be done.
Ashley Lynn P., 20
Losing RBG wasn't like losing a powerful figure in politics. It was like losing a guardian. Someone who fought fearlessly for you no matter what. As a young woman who has been told she doesn't have a place in politics because she is a she or she is too young, it really meant something to have RBG in one of the most powerful offices in the land watching over me. I'm heartbroken, but I'm not giving up.
RBG taught me to continue to fight for what I care about and to never listen to the critics that tell you you can't do something. My values and approaches to making change in this world were grounded in RBG's influence, and I know she wouldn't want me to sit around and cry. She would want me to get back up and make her legacy our legacy.
Kimi G., 18
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy for women and the LGBTQ+ community is rooted in equality for all. As a lawyer, before her time on the Supreme Court, RBG worked in collaboration with Susan Deller Ross to advocate for the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on gender or reproductive choices. As a woman of color, my dream is to thrive as a working artist on Broadway and in film/television, creating space for BIPOC narratives. And I also want to become a mother. My wish is to show my children it is possible to go after one’s dreams while raising and supporting a family, as RBG exemplified in her lifetime. In her book, My Own Words, Ginsburg states, “Feminism [is the] notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by manmade barriers.” May RBG rest in peace, and her legacy live on in revolution.
I will be voting (for the first time!) in this 2020 election and recommend everyone who can vote should vote. I am also enrolled in a writing class at the University of California at Berkeley that evaluates the art and performance of BIPOC women in the Americas, to honor female stories and narratives outside of Eurocentrism. RBG’s legacy has inspired me to study the intersectionality of feminism and what it means to join forces to create monumental change.
Fatimata C., 19
New York, New York
When I found out Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, I was filled with sadness because I knew her impact on the Supreme Court and how she was a role model for many young Jewish women. But as a young African-American woman who comes from a low-income family, I knew that while there was space to mourn Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we must also leave room for critique. My mind immediately jumped to her 2016 criticisms of Colin Kaepernick’s protests, when she called him taking a knee “dumb” and “disrespectful.”
While we examine Ruth Bader Ginsburg through the lens of feminism, we often forget to examine her through the lens of racial justice, prisoners’ rights, and indigenous rights. Kapernick’s protest sparked a much-needed conversation on standing up for a country that does not stand for you. It was about the systemic structures in place that continue to harm Black lives. It was about Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and the countless others killed since then. I love all the work that RBG has done for feminism, but her comments were a confirmation that this country does not value Black people. In only framing RBG as a feminist icon, I wonder, what are we dismissing from her legacy?
With RBG’s passing, we need to take action. I recommend that others continue to disrupt the status quo, break boundaries, and learn more about issues impacting gender inequality. I hope people work with local organizations that are directly working in the communities they live in to make an impact. I hope that people support all activists and organizers regardless of their background and recognize the intersectional identities at place. I hope that people use their platforms for good.
Ilana D., 17
New York, New York
I remember seeing a T-shirt on Amazon that said “all I want for Hanukkah is eternal life for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Because she had overcome so much adversity, including cancer, I had thought of RBG as immortal.
As a Jewish feminist teenager who attends a NYC public school, RBG was my role model. While many of my female friends and I take the rights that women currently have for granted, we must acknowledge that the generations before us did not have these rights. Over the years, I have recognized that RBG helped secure women’s rights in education, work, at home, and over our own bodies.
I would honor RBG’s legacy and her dying wishes by trying to ensure that Trump does not fill RBG’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Although I will not turn 18 until next February, I want to ensure others will vote during the upcoming election (and during future elections). Given RBG’s impact on disability rights, I feel particularly proud that I was recently selected as a Unified Champion Schools correspondent for Special Olympics North America, where I can promote inclusivity among students in my state.
Jazmin K., 22
Woodstock, New York
When I was 17, I had the chance to meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court in a surprise visit as a part of my university’s Hillel freshman orientation. I got to ask her what her hopes were for the future of equality, and she told us a story about her granddaughter Clara. At age 8, she’d said she wanted to grow up “to be president of the United States of the World.” Ginsburg said this demonstrated to her how far women have come — when she was 8, this dream wouldn’t have felt possible.
There is perhaps no better role model or figure more influential to young Jewish women interested in bettering the world around them than Ginsburg. As she told us at the Supreme Court that day, her Jewish faith was an integral part of her identity. Dying on Rosh Hashanah, Ginsburg is now a tzaddik — a person of great righteousness who has blazed a path for all young women to aspire to.
In Judaism, there is a concept called tikkun olam, which means "world repair” or bettering the world. In the memory of RBG, we should all think of ways we can improve and transform our systems in the pursuit of justice. Our advocacy honoring her legacy should not stop at pushing our representatives in Washington but should also look within and at the local level, reflecting and taking action to uphold justice and equality in our communities. Federal change is slow — we can each take immediate steps in our own lives each day to ensure her spirit lives on.
Chrissy S., 16
San Antonio, Texas
I found out RBG died through TikTok, and my first reaction was fear. As a woman and part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I’m concerned my future is at risk. I can’t imagine how RBG felt knowing that she had to not only fight for her life, but fight for millions of others. What I loved most about her was her fearlessness. When she attended Harvard, she was one of only a few women in her class. She fought to be heard, to be respected, and to be listened to. I am one out of four Hispanics in my 40-person business class, and it’s difficult having to work twice as hard to gain respect. But I think about her; RBG wouldn’t give up.
As someone who is not at the legal voting age, I will fight to honor her legacy through difficult conversations about feminism and by fighting for what I believe in. I will not back down because of my gender, sexual orientation, or skin color. I deserve to be in the same room as everyone else, and I will think of RBG when my authority is questioned. I encourage everyone to join feminist organizations such as Built by Girls, a nonprofit for women and nonbinary people in tech because not only do they advance women’s rights but they create the kind of allyship and change that can last for years. I’m terrified of what comes next, but I have faith in my generation and the changemakers who belong to Gen Z.
Monisha P., 22
New York, New York
When I heard the news of RBG’s death, I was initially shocked — then immediately surprised at how shocked I was. She was 87 years old after all and had been fighting a very public battle with cancer. But RBG has become a larger-than-life icon to many people, especially with the election looming overhead — she has become a symbol of women’s rights and women’s right to fight for equality (two things that seem very tenuous these days).
Her death is especially hard to swallow when there are people in power who seem to want to reverse the policies and precedents for gender equality that she labored to push through the courts. I think that’s why so many people are scared for the future and hit so hard by her passing.
But RBG was just one woman, not a deity or a saint, and she set a very real example to women everywhere, one which can be acted upon. I don’t think we should be scared so much as determined to carry out the movement she fought for. This can be done through casting ballots and voting for visionary leaders of our nation. I plan to get involved in local elections so I can push for change from the ground up.
Winni Z., 18
Upon hearing RBG passed away, I was shocked and heartbroken, then scared. Despite her long battle with cancer, I didn't expect her to leave us so soon. To feminists of all ages, she was a visionary and an icon, pioneering gender equality and addressing so many critical issues of our time, for which I am forever grateful as a young Asian-American woman. Not only did RBG have a brilliant legal mind, but she also expanded the possibilities of everyday life, exemplifying how one can be dually committed to family and work. An advocate and a jurist, she expanded the use of law beyond words, litigation, and debate to promote social justice and open doors. RBG's courage, determination, and wisdom inspires me to work harder on my personal goals and aspirations, so that I might be able to make a fraction of the impact she has made.
As Americans mourn this crushing loss, we must continue RBG's fight for justice and equality. Donate to abortion funds, prioritize BIPOC organizations, and support campaigns such as Flip the Senate. It's time to start holding our representatives accountable, and I encourage all those eligible to vote this November.
Mercedes M., 20
New York, New York
When I saw Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak for the first time, my 8-year-old self realized even little girls can dream big. My hope for the future is that more little girls can grow up to have equal opportunities and respect in traditionally masculine fields like politics and STEM. During the #MeToo movement, I remember her recounting a time where she experienced sexual harassment. “For so long women were silent, thinking there was nothing you could do about it. But now, the law is on the side of women or men who encounter harassment, and that’s a good thing,” she said. For a long time, I struggled with the fact I was raped. But at the age of 18, this very quote gave me the courage to come forward and share my experience as a survivor.
I came to the realization I had the power to change my narrative and be empowered by helping others who were unable to speak out. For me, that was the best part of healing. I am proud to be a part of survivor-based advocacy, and I’m proud to contribute a solution for a better and safer world to honor her legacy. I created a mobile application called Safe Squad to help others. The app uses an automatic SOS messaging system to alert the user’s chosen emergency contacts with their location, so the next girl out there doesn’t have to say “me, too.”
RBG’s legacy will live on through Gen Z’s activism. As a nation, we must see to it that the movement continuously faces towards justice, and that means we all fight and unite to create change. We must phone bank, write to our elected officials, and show up to the polls come Election Day.