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Justice Ginsburg's death 'devastating,' KC historian says

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized for treatment of possible infection
Posted at 5:54 PM, Sep 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-19 23:36:24-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death is "devastating," according to one Kansas City area historian.

Educator and historian Jane McClain has studied historic figures for years and said Ginsburg is about as big as they come.

"She was a pioneer in women’s rights and human rights, really," McClain said.

One of Ginsburg's biggest cases, according to McClain, was the Lilly Ledbetter decision in 2007, which centered on equal pay for women. In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Ledbetter sued after learning that male colleagues were earning more than she was.

While the decision failed, it spawned a movement to raise women's wages.

"She made a difference even when she was in the dissent because that dissent led to a law," McClain said, "which didn’t totally solve the problem, but it did make a difference."

Over the years, Ginsburg gained a reputation that attracted a new generation of women.

"When she became 'Notorious RBG,' that she was a symbol for younger women, and can point out younger women who really had the benefit of Title 9 or Title 7," McClain said.

Ginsburg also left an impression on local lawyers and attorneys, like Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson, who met her in person in 2010.

"To have the opportunity to be sworn into the Supreme Court, to meet those justices, to be in that experience is something that will last with me my entire lifetime," Thompson said.

When Thompson was sworn in to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, he met Justice Antonin Scalia, who said he was bringing his friend -- Ginsburg.

"And in comes this little lady, and she just, she just owned the room even though her stature not mimics that," Thompson said, "and I was kind of surprised because I was probably the youngest person getting sworn in at the time, and she just walked right up to me and she just goes, ‘I can’t believe they’re getting so young.'"

Ginsburg died Friday night at 87 years old after a battle with cancer.