Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died at the age of 87 on Friday evening, Sept. 18, due to “complications from pancreatic cancer,” which the Supreme Court announced in a press release. Ginsburg, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, was known for her tenacity, power, and staunch defense of women’s rights.
Ginsburg shared what would be one of her last public remarks with her granddaughter, Clara Spera, “days” before passing away, according to NPR. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” the Justice told her granddaughter.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell directly opposed this wish, however, by revealing that Donald Trump’s “nominee” for the Supreme Court will “receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” This was announced in a press release, issued just barely after Ginsburg’s death was confirmed, and just 46 days before the U.S. presidential election. However, McConnell refused to consider former President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court — Merrick Garland — to replace the late Justice Antonio Scalia before the 2016 presidential election.
Ginsburg’s death follows a year of hospitalizations and health scares, including surgery for lung cancer and radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer. These were her third and fourth battles with cancer; she was diagnosed with and underwent surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009, and received treatment for colon cancer in 1999. The justice was then hospitalized again in November 2019, when she experienced “fever and chills,” according to a SCOTUS news release; doctors administered fluids and intravenous antibiotics, and she was released after two days. She was back on the bench at the Supreme Court days later, described as “fierce” and “hearty” during a second amendment hearing.
By July of 2020, Ginsburg sadly revealed that her cancer had returned, and that she had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment since May of that year. In addition to her cancer, Ruth revealed that she underwent a surgery to remove “gall stones and treat an infection” in July.
Ginsburg has only missed oral arguments during her 26 years as a Supreme Court justice, when she fell in her office and fractured three ribs in November 2018. She underwent surgery that December to remove cancerous nodules from her left lung, which were discovered after the fall. She worked from home during recovery instead, using transcripts and written briefs.
Justice Ginsburg, dubbed “RBG” in recent years, is a legend. Her 1993 arrival to the Supreme Court was the first Democratic appointment since 1967, when President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall. Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn in 1933, and attended law school at Harvard and Columbia Universities. As a lawyer, she was a fierce advocate of women’s rights, and became the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1970s.
Her influence and will power to still serve as a justice in her 80s inspired a new generation of voters in the 2010s. Authors Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik dubbed her “Notorious RBG.” She was the subject of the 2018 biopic, On The Basis of Sex, in which she was played by Felicity Jones. And Kate McKinnon‘s portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live as a feisty contrarian who told politicians they’d been “Gins-burned” became one of her best known characters. Ginsburg said she loved it, by the way.
May she rest in peace.