Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to Leave America to See how Unfairly it Treated Women

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tags: Supreme Court, gender equality, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was 29 when she went to Sweden for a legal research project. And it was there, in 1962, that the future Supreme Court justice discovered a world that challenged every assumption she had about women in the workplace.

Not only did she see a female judge presiding over a trial, but the judge was seven months pregnant. In Swedish law school classrooms, at least 25 percent of the students she saw were women.

Ginsburg, who last week died at 87 and is being mourned this week at the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol, wasn’t able to find a job after graduating near the top of her class at Harvard Law School. There had been just nine women in a law class of 500, and the dean asked each of them to justify taking the spot of a man.

“I guess I knew inequality existed [in the U.S.], but it was just part of the scenery. It was the way things were,” Ginsburg said in an interview with Lund University professor Kjell-Åke Modéer in 2014. “You had to cope with it.”

In Sweden, everything was different. Two-income families were completely unremarkable, though women still shouldered most of the responsibility for children and housework. Even that was being questioned.

A woman named Eva Moberg “wrote a column in a Stockholm paper asking why the woman should have two jobs and the man, only one,” Ginsburg recalled. “Why should the woman alone be the one to take the children for their medical checkups, buy them shoes, have dinner on the table at 7. He should do more than take out the garbage. Swedish women debated this idea. Some took pride in handling everything. I recall a medical doctor, glad that she had a profession, but thinking it all together right and proper that she take primary responsibility for her children. But others said: Why should I have two jobs when he has only one?”

All of this made a huge impression on Ginsburg.


Read entire article at Washington Post

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