TIME

Joining the Court

TIME’s news feature, “The Law According to Ruth: Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” appeared in the June 28, 1993, edition of the magazine. It has been edited for space and clarity.

IN 1993, AFTER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON NOMINATED Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be the 107th Supreme Court Justice, the two stood side by side in the Rose Garden to make the announcement. Clinton spoke first, and when he passed the mic to Ginsburg, she noted how attitudes toward women lawyers had evolved since she graduated from Columbia Law. Though Ginsburg had finished No. 1 in her class, “not a single law firm in the entire city of New York bid for my employment,” she remembered.

But were it not for those doors clicking softly shut, one after another, Ginsburg, 60, might not have been standing next to Clinton, and the course of American jurisprudence would certainly have been different. Steel entered her soul, says a judge who knows her, and she did not fall prey to what had stopped women for so long—the sense that it was one thing to be the smartest student in the class but another to have that undefinable something men insist it takes to be a top-notch lawyer.

She did not think her early success was a fluke nor exclusion her fate, and this most unlikely of firebrands took one of the few clerkships

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