Ruth Bader Ginsburg and husband Martin D's love story: How a blind date blossomed into lifetime of togetherness

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and husband Martin D's love story: How a blind date blossomed into lifetime of togetherness
Ruth Bader and Martin D Ginsburg (Getty Images)

A trailblazer, an icon and a legend, Ruth Bader Ginsburg inspired millions during her reign as the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in 2020. The Supreme Court announced her death and said the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas. She was 87. As soon as the news broke, there were cries with the hashtag #RIPRBG for the stalwart also known by her initials RBG. 

In an official statement, the court said she died at her home in Washington surrounded by family. "Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature," Chief Justice John Roberts said. "We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence, that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice."

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Getty Images)

Joan, ‘Kiki’ and Ruth

Born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933, she was raised in the Flatbush neighborhood by Celia and Nathan Bader. Ruth had Jewish roots and was familiar with the Hebrew language as her father was a Jewish immigrant from Odesa, Ukraine, and her mother was born in New York to Austrian Jewish parents. When Ruth was barely 14 months old, her parents lost their older daughter Marylin due to meningitis. In her early days, her parents lovingly called her 'Kiki' as she was quite "a kicky baby" during the pregnancy.

It was at school that Kiki's name was changed from Joan to Ruth as her mother saw too many girls named Joan and asked the teacher to call her daughter "Ruth" to avoid confusion. Ruth's mother was pretty active in her education and wanted her to excel in academics. Ruth studied law at James Madison High School. During that time, her mother Celia struggled with cancer and died the day before Ruth's high school graduation. 

Georgetown Law Professor Martin D. Ginsburg (L) accompanies his wife US Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (C) (Getty Images)

How a blind date sparked romance

Ruth attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1950, where she first locked eyes with her future husband Martin D Ginsburg on a blind date. A quiet undergraduate at 17, Ruth didn't know that Marty — already a sophomore — had set up the date as he wanted to go out with a cute new freshman. Beauty with brains, it was her intellect that attracted him the most and together the pair went on to form a lifelong love story. 

Ruth later recalled, "He was the first boy I ever knew who cared that I had a brain." The two complemented each other well with their contrasting personalities — Ruth was shy and timid but Marty was the life of the party! The highest-ranking female student in her class, she graduated from Cornell with a bachelor of arts degree in government on June 23, 1954. A month later, the two got married. While she was working for the Social Security Administration office in Oklahoma at 21, she got pregnant and was demoted. In 1955, she gave birth to a daughter.  

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is Sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. President William Clinton stands behind her as her husband Martin holds the bible as Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist Adminsters the Oath of Office (Getty Images)

A lifetime of togetherness

After their wedding, Ginsburg — a young Army lieutenant Ginsburg at that time — was assigned to an artillery unit at Fort Sill, Okla. One night, he came home to a bizarre dish served on a platter. "What is it?" he asked, to which she replied, "It's tuna fish casserole." From then on, Ginsburg took over the cooking responsibilities with the help of an Escoffier cookbook.

The cooking skills (or the lack of it) soon became a well-known joke. "As a general rule," Mr. Ginsburg told the New York Times in 1997, "my wife does not give me any advice about cooking, and I do not give her advice about the law. This seems to work quite well on both sides." 

Ruth was nominated by President Bill Clinton on June 14, 1993 and went on to become the second of four female justices to be confirmed to the Court along with Sandra Day O'Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Meanwhile, Ginsburg joined the Georgetown faculty about 30 years ago and was one of the nation's preeminent tax law experts.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with husband Martin Ginsburg (Getty Images)

Till death do us part

During his final year after the birth of their daughter, Marty was diagnosed with a rare form of testicular cancer when Ruth attended classes and took notes for her sick husband. "We had nearly two whole years far from school, far from career pressures and far from relatives, to learn about each other and begin to build a life," he once said about their life together. The couple celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary on June 23 and four days later, he died of complications from metastatic cancer. 

After his death, she delivered a speech to a group of lawyers and judges that was meant to have been delivered by her husband. “He had his speech all written out,” she said while reading out the speech, “How the Tenth Circuit Got My Wife Her Good Job,” to a houseful of rapt listeners. 

The couple has two children, Jane Carol Ginsburg — a law professor at Columbia University, and — James Steven Ginsburg — founder and president of the Chicago Classical Recording Foundation — along with four grandchildren.

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