How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Became a Pop Culture Icon

Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived a storied life. In 1972, she became the first tenured female professor at Columbia Law School. In 1980, she wa...

Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived a storied life. In 1972, she became the first tenured female professor at Columbia Law School. In 1980, she was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. And in 1993, she became the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, where she cemented her legacy as a crusader for women’s rights.

It wasn’t until much later in her career, though, that she achieved celebrity status. From movies to merchandise, here’s how Justice Ginsburg permeated pop culture in recent years.


In 2013, Shana Knizhnik, a law student at the time, created a Tumblr account

celebrating Justice Ginsburg after her memorable dissent in Shelby County v. Holder, a voting-rights case. Ms. Knizhnik gave the justice an alter ego, Notorious R.B.G. — a play on the rapper Notorious B.I.G. — and overnight, Justice Ginsburg’s face was plastered on stickers, memes and T-shirts. Two years later, Ms. Knizhnik and Irin Carmon, a journalist, wrote “Notorious RBG,” a breezy chronicle of the justice’s life told through illustrations, archival photographs and intimate interviews. In her review for The Times, Jennifer Senior called the book “an artisanal hagiography, a frank and admiring piece of fan nonfiction.” It later inspired an exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The Tumblr site started by Ms. Knizhnik, meanwhile, now also hosts an online store, replete with R.B.G.-themed hats, mugs, totes, onesies and more.

In 2016, the author Debbie Levy and the illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley published this biographical picture book, a whimsical take on the justice’s early obstacles and notable dissents. In 2019, Ms. Levy followed up with another picture book, “Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Journey to Justice.”

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Newsrust: How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Became a Pop Culture Icon
How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Became a Pop Culture Icon
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