Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes: Fighting For Women’s Equality

These Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes cover a range of topics related to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The revered Supreme Court Justice is a trailblazer for women’s rights; her strength and longevity inspire us all. You’ll find her words are a powerful and optimistic force for change.

The Voice of Equality: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes

We’ve collected Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes from her many public statements, interviews and books. Topics include women’s empowerment, feminism and girl power—as well as law and justice. Here are our selections of the top ten best and well-known RBG quotes:

Top 10 Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes

  1. I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.
  2. A gender line…helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.
  3. I don’t say women’s rights—I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.
  4. My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent.
  5. So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.
  6. The dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.
  7. If I had any talent in the world, any talent that God could give me, I would be a great diva.
  8. Justice is not to be taken by storm. She is to be wooed by slow advances.
  9. When contemplated in its extreme, almost any power looks dangerous.
  10. So now the perception is, yes, women are here to stay. And when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes and sayings

Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes

On women’s equality and gender equity

It is essential to a woman’s equality with man that she be the decision maker, that her choice be controlling. If you impose restraints, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex. The state controlling a woman would mean denying her full autonomy and full equality.

Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.

I don’t say women’s rights—I say the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.

The enormous difference between fighting gender discrimination as opposed to race discrimination is good people immediately perceive race discrimination as evil and intolerable. But when I talked about sex-based discrimination, I got the response, ‘What are you talking about? Women are treated ever so much better than men!

I read every federal case that had to do with women’s equality or the lack thereof and every law review article. Now that seems like it was quite an undertaking but in fact, it was easily manageable because there was so little.

A gender line…helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.

Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.

RBG Fast Facts:
Ginsburg was born March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, NY.

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Statements on feminism

Feminism is the notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents and not be held back by man made barriers.

I remember envying the boys long before I even knew the word feminism, because I liked shop better than cooking or sewing.

Feminism… I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, ‘Free to be You and Me.’ Free to be, if you were a girl—doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you’re a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that’s OK too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers—manmade barriers, certainly not heaven sent.

My mother was very strong about my doing well in school and living up to my potential. Two things were important to her and she repeated them endlessly. One was to ‘be a lady,’ and that meant conduct yourself civilly, don’t let emotions like anger or envy get in your way. And the other was to be independent, which was an unusual message for mothers of that time to be giving their daughters.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s thoughts on women’s empowerment

womens equality quoteWomen belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.

I read Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex and that was an eye-opener. So I began to think, well, maybe the law could catch up with changes in society, and that was an empowering idea. The notion was that law was, yes, a way to earn a living, but also to do things that would make life a little better for your community.

I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.

Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.

On sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement

It’s about time. For so long women were silent, thinking there was nothing you could do about it, but now the law is on the side of women, or men, who encounter harassment and that’s a good thing.

Every woman of my vintage knows what sexual harassment is, although we didn’t have a name for it.

Quotes on girl power

If I had any talent in the world, any talent that God could give me, I would be a great diva.

My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent.

For both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show… As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it.

We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mold―because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.

Check out more Girl Power Quotes and Sayings

Marriage and relationships

If you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it. I had a life partner who thought my work was as important as his, and I think that made all the difference for me.

In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.

Marty was an unusual man. In fact, he was the first boy I knew who cared that I had a brain.

In the course of a marriage, one accommodates the other.

Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf… That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with my marriage, but in dealing with my colleagues.

Marty was so secure in himself that he never regarded me as any kind of threat. He was my biggest booster.

RBG Fast Facts:
She married Martin Ginsburg in 1954. He died in 2010.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes on change

(Men and women) create new traditions by their actions, if artificial barriers are removed, and avenues of opportunity held open to them.

Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.

Rabbi Alfred Bettleheim once said: ‘Prejudice saves us a painful trouble, the trouble of thinking.’

When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best to tune it out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.

If you’re going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers.

RBG Fast Facts:
She was appointed to the Supreme Court on August 10, 1993.

On achievement

RBG fight quoteNot a law firm in the entire city of New York would employ me. I struck out on three grounds: I was Jewish, a woman and a mother.

There’s a sense that time is precious and you should enjoy and thrive in what you’re doing to the hilt.

If you want to be a true professional, do something outside yourself.

Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.

You can’t have it all, all at once. Who—man or woman—has it all, all at once? Over my lifespan I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time things were rough.

I’m a very strong believer in listening and learning from others.

So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.

Each part of my life provided respite from the other and gave me a sense of proportion that classmates trained only on law studies lacked.

How to be Like RBG: Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles, and don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be afraid to take charge, think about what you want, then do the work, but then enjoy what makes you happy, bring along your crew, have a sense of humor.

I became a lawyer for selfish reasons. I thought I could do a lawyer’s job better than any other.

Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true.

Many people have asked me, ‘Well, when are you going to step down?’ As long as I can do the job full steam, I will be here.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg statements about law

I was terribly nervous. In fact, I didn’t eat lunch for fear that I might throw up. Two minutes into my argument, the fear dissolved. Suddenly, I realized that here before me were the nine leading jurists of America, a captive audience. I felt a surge of power that carried me through.

The study of law was unusual for women of my generation. For most girls growing up in the ’40s, the most important degree was not your B.A., but your M.R.S.

You felt, in class, as if all eyes were on you and that if you didn’t perform well, you would be failing, not only for yourself, but for all women.

Our strategy was the soul of simplicity. It was to go after the stereotypes that were written into law and to show that many could be disadvantaged by the stereotype, as well as women. We wanted people to be judged by what they do, by the functions they perform, and not by gender.

When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.

I read every federal case that had to do with women’s equality or the lack thereof and every law review article. Now that seems like it was quite an undertaking but in fact, it was easily manageable because there was so little.

On the Voting Rights Act:

Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.

Quotes on justice

Justice is not to be taken by storm. She is to be wooed by slow advances.

So now the perception is, yes, women are here to stay. And when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.

People certainly know that women are present on the court. And we are all over the bench and we are certainly here to stay.

When contemplated in its extreme, almost any power looks dangerous.

We may be anxious to reduce crime, but we should remember that in our system of justice, the presumption of innocence is prime, and the law cannot apply one rule to Joe who is a good man, and another to John, who is a hardened criminal.

I wish there was a way I could wave a magic wand and put back when people were respectful of each other and the Congress was working for the good of the country and not just along party lines. Someday there will be great people, great elected representatives who will say, ‘enough of this nonsense, let’s be the kind of legislature the United States should have.’ I hope that day will come when I’m still alive.

O'Connor, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan
Supreme Court justices O’Connor, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan

RBG Fast Facts:
Ginsburg is the second female Supreme Court justice after Sandra Day O’Connor.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg thoughts on dissent

You can disagree without being disagreeable.

The dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.

It’s not simply to say, ‘My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.’ But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that’s the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today but for tomorrow.

“The Notorious RBG” on how she would like to be remembered

Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability, and to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something, as my colleague David Souter would say, outside myself. ‘Cause I’ve gotten much more satisfaction for the things that I’ve done for which I was not paid.


We hope you are inspired by the words of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For more inspirational quotes, check out these Short Positive Quotes and Sayings.

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