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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the 19th Amendment, ERA

Feb. 17, 2020

At age 15, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s mother was marching in suffragette parades in New York City. One hundred years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court associate justice sat down with Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to discuss “Searching for Equality: The 19th Amendment and Beyond,” held at Georgetown University Law Center on Feb. 10.

Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg addresses the Feb. 10 program “Searching for Equality: The 19th Amendment and Beyond.”

Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg addresses the Feb. 10 program “Searching for Equality: The 19th Amendment and Beyond.”

American Bar Association photo

ABA President Judy Perry Martinez opened the program by saying that although the 19th Amendment “paved the way for the largest expansion of democracy in the history of our nation,” ballot restrictions remain today.

The 19th Amendment was “the first step of equal citizenship for women,” Ginsburg said. In some ways, she added, it was a miracle it passed because “suffragettes had to sell votes for women to an all-male audience [in Congress] and that was no easy task.”

She noted that the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress in 1923 to guarantee women’s rights into areas beyond voting. Referring to ratification, she said, “we still need to do it.”

“Every constitution in the world written since the year 1950, even Afghanistan, has the equivalent of an equal rights amendment, and we don’t,” Ginsburg said. “I would like to show my granddaughters that the equal citizenship stature of men and women is a fundamental human right.”

The wide-ranging discussion covered her late-in-life turn as a celebrity (“I’m soon to be 87 years old and everyone wants to take a picture of me”) and the advances she’s seen in her lifetime.

The event was part of the ABA’s yearlong celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which includes a special issue of the Georgetown Law Journal in partnership with the ABA commemorating the 19th Amendment. McKeown is the chair of the ABA Commission on the 19th Amendment.

On Feb. 7, Ginsburg received the World Peace and Liberty Award at the ABA offices in Washington, D.C., from Javier Cremades, president of the World Jurist Association and the World Law Foundation. Previous recipients include Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

A portion of Ginsburg's remarks can be viewed below.

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