Dear Barnard Community, 

This past year has been filled with many moments of heartbreak and loss. The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last night at age 87 is, unfortunately, another such moment. The large void her death leaves is a testament to the magnitude of her legacy within the American legal system and as a leading voice for women’s rights. 

Justice Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959, after transferring from Harvard Law. Her story, cinematically retold in On the Basis of Sex, which Barnard showcased at the 2019 Athena Film Festival, is a story of grit and determination. A fighter until the end, even against metastatic pancreatic cancer, Justice Ginsburg taught the nation that it was possible to be a feminist pop icon in her 80s, become known instantly by her initials alone, and affectionately be called “Notorious” because of her bold legal moves. 

Justice Ginsburg (whether you agreed with her viewpoint on a particular issue or not) embodied adjectives we often use to describe the Barnard community: bold, strong, resilient, unafraid. As we contemplate this great loss, I take solace in the powerful work Justice Ginsburg did to advocate for girls and women and the example she set for so many of us. As she told ABC News correspondent Lynn Sherr in 2001: “We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mold ― because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.” 

I heard the news of her passing last night as I celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, with my family. As we mourn Justice Ginsburg, let us also celebrate her legacy, and remember her life as she fought fiercely to normalize the idea of women and diverse voices in all sorts of rooms, from boardrooms to courtrooms ― a fight we continue at Barnard today.


Sian Leah Beilock