Inside Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 56-year marriage

Ruth Bader met Marty Ginsburg in 1950 when she was a freshman and he was a sophomore at Cornell University. Technically, Biography says the formal meeting happened over a “blind” date — but it wasn’t exactly blind, because Marty had already seen Ruth around, and he had asked his friend to be set up with her. Ruth was attracted to him because, as she put it, “He was the first boy I ever knew who cared that I had a brain.” They got married in 1954 after Ruth graduated, and they moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for his military service, and where the Supreme Court Justice-to-be could only find work as a typist — NPR says she even lost that job when she became pregnant.

Both returned to the East Coast two years later to attend Harvard Law School, where she was one of nine women in a class of over 500 — but it was she, not Marty, who turned out to be the academic star. Other than juggling class schedules and a toddler, Ruth found herself with a new dilemma… that of caring for Marty who was diagnosed with testicular cancer. “So that left Ruth with a 3-year-old child, a fairly sick husband, the law review, classes to attend and feeding me,” Marty Ginsburg told NPR in 1993. Late at night, he would dictate his class paper to Ruth before falling asleep at 2 am, and then it would be her turn to start preparing for her own classes the next day.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg encountered discrimination during the early years of their marriage

After he graduated, Marty Ginsburg got a job in New York, and Ruth transferred to Columbia and finished at the top of her law class. In spite of her credentials, she couldn’t get a job. She was a woman, she was a mother, and judges were concerned that she would be distracted by “familial obligations.” But she did get her breaks, first as a clerkship in New York, then as a teacher in Rutgers law school, where she had to hide her second pregnancy by wearing her mother-in-law’s clothes.

Ruth Bader and Marty Ginsburg joined forces in a court battle to challenge a law that prevented a Colorado man from claiming a tax deduction because he was taking care of his 89-year-old mother. That battle became the basis of the 2016 movie “On the Basis of Sex.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said: “One thing the film got absolutely right was that I was blessed to be in a marriage to a man who thought my work was at least as important as his.” She had also said that she and her husband split childcare roles equally (via The Lily). She tells the story, “I had stayed up all night the night before, and I said to the [school] principal, ‘This child has two parents. Please alternate calls.'”

Marty Ginsburg supported his wife's career

Marty Ginsburg was instrumental in helping his wife make her mark on the U.S. legal system. He helped her secure her first post in the D.C. Federal Court of Appeals in 1980 with the help of former presidential candidate Ross Perot. With the help of prominent legal scholars of the time, Marty also made sure Ruth was able to get in front of former President Bill Clinton as he was looking to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Byron White in early 1993. 

But Marty wasn’t just there to help Ruth make her mark — he also kept the family fed. Her daughter Jane has famously said: “My father did the cooking and my mother did the thinking.” Son James offers up his distaste for certain dishes, saying: “To this day, I can’t eat swordfish after what she did to it.” And Marty once said (via NY Post): “Ruth is no longer permitted in the kitchen, by the demand of our children, who have taste.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg says it helps to be 'a little deaf'

Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a secret to a happy marriage and a peaceful workplace and she shared that with actress and singer Jennifer Lopez. The advice comes from Ginsburg’s mother-in-law (via Oprah). Lopez says Ruth had told her, “On the day I was married, my mother in law — I was married in her home — she took me aside and said she wanted to tell me what was the secret of a happy marriage.” Her sage wisdom: “It helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”

Ruth lost Marty in 2010, just days after their 56th wedding anniversary. Before his death from cancer, Ruth found a note Marty had written to her at the hospital as she was packing up his things. “My Dearest Ruth,” it said, “You are the only person I have ever loved… I have admired and loved you almost since the day we first met at Cornell… The time has come for me to… take leave of life because the loss of quality simply overwhelms. I hope you will support where I come out, but I understand you may not. I will not love you a jot less.”

A day after he died, she was at the Supreme Court reading an opinion. She said she had gone to work because, as she said, “Marty would have wanted it.”

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