Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On one of her namesakes

As most readers well know, we're going to name our daughter Ruth.

Her first namesake, my father's mother, passed away several years ago. She was Irish, the child of immigrants. She raised four children (three boys and a girl). She smoked like a chimney and had a ribald sense of humor. She was incredibly tiny too -- I don't remember her as much more than 5' nothing, about 90 pounds with beautiful white hair (I am told she was sort of auburn/copper penny before going prematurely white).

Her other namesake, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, was the 2d woman appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993. She grew up in NYC, the child of an immigrant father and just-barely-born-in-the-US mother. She recently quipped on PBS' The Jewish Americans, "What is the difference between a bookkeeper in New York's garment district and a U.S. Supreme Court justice? One generation."

RBG went to Cornell and then onto Harvard Law School where she was one of only nine women in her class. She transferred to Columbia Law when her husband, also a lawyer, took a job in NYC. She was the first woman to be on law review at both institutions.

She worked as a researcher and then as a professor. In 1972, she started the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Women's Rights Project (WRP). The Project was somewhat self-interested in that she discovered she was paid significantly less than her male colleagues while teaching at Rutgers' thereafter, she began litigating discrimination cases.

WRP argued the landmark Frontiero case. WRP went on to win in Turner, which struck down a law making pregnant women ineligible for unemployment benefits. She was also instrumental in getting the Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Act of 1978 passed in Congress. Eventually, the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project -- which has litigated and won some of the most important choice victories -- grew out of the WRP.

It isn't that we expect our Ruth to become a Supreme Court Justice or to graduate summa cum laude from Harvard (though, neither would disappoint!). Rather, in naming our Ruth after RBG, I hope that she will have an immediate, ever-present reminder of what she could accomplish, of possibility, of leadership, of legacy, and of wonder.


Chris said...

Your words, Melissa, present a warmth and wonder that makes me confident that my first grandchild will have a life of possibilities and of love.
What more might any child wish for?
I love you for your love for Daniel and Ruth.

Gypsy at Heart said...

A better legacy with which to anchor a name I could not imagine. You chose well. She will surely be a child of possibilities like her grandparent says.