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I just finished reading Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships by Nina Totenberg and I loved it.

It is packed with details on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as seen through the eyes of a lifelong friend, journalist Nina Totenberg.

The stories and amazing lives of Nina and Ruth helped open my eyes. Both women struggled to have their accomplishments and talents recognized in the male dominated fields of law and journalism, despite their high levels of achievement.

As a male growing up in the same era, I was (and hopefully a little less so now) totally clueless that such barriers existed for professional women and really all women. I was blissfully thinking that merit would rule the day. In reality, merit can only help those on a fair playing field. This book helped me see, with example after example, that the playing fields for men and women were, and still are, not equal.

Nina and Ruth were repeatedly passed over for jobs and opportunities when they were clearly the best qualified. And when they did get a fair chance, look at what they accomplished. This excellent book tells this story in vivid detail.

Here is a revealing story (from this book) that jumped out at me. The blissful will still have trouble with this riddle.


Early in their relationship, Nina shared a cab ride as Ruth recounted her fury in being dismissed by a screening committee for a judge position.

Nina wrote, ” I remember that on that day we both wondered if women would be forever cut out of the judging business.”

Then Nina asked Ruth if she remembered a riddle that used to puzzle almost everyone.

A father and son are injured in a car crash, and when the boy is wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon says “Oh my God, it’s my son.”

The question is, how could this be?

The answer is, the surgeon is his mother.

Nina goes on in a letter to say to Ruth, “It’s in no small part because of your work as a lawyer that this isn’t a riddle anymore.

Sometimes, a riddle can be illuminating, at least to those with an open mind.


This film highlights some of Ruth’s life, her very sharp mind and some of her legal accomplishments. I found it inspiring and moving.


You can read more details of Ruth’s life and work on Wikipedia and in the excellent documentary RBG. Here is the trailer.


Here is a partial excerpt from a PBS story explaining the history behind this notorious nickname.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg made legal history in academia beginning in her 20s, working her way through the legal ranks to become a Supreme Court justice at age 60. But when she was in her 80s, something surprising happened: she became a pop culture icon. Jeffrey Brown reports as part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.

  • Judy Woodruff:Finally tonight: Ruth Bader Ginsburg had made legal history in academia starting in her 20s, then worked her way through the legal ranks and became a Supreme Court justice at age 60.But, when she was in her 80s, something new happened. She became a pop culture icon.Jeffrey Brown has our look for our arts and culture series, Canvas.
  • Jeffrey Brown:Appropriate for the age of social media, the cultural stardom of Ruth Bader Ginsburg began in 2013 with a Tumblr account, the Notorious RBG, a takeoff on the well-known rapper the Notorious B.I.G.It was the creation of then-NYU Law student Shana Knizhnik, inspired by a powerful Ginsburg dissent defending voting rights.
  • Shana Knizhnik:The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg”: Justice Ginsburg’s words were sort of this beacon of hope and a call to action to those us who cared about those issues.
  • Jeffrey Brown:Knizhnik would co-author a “Notorious RBG” book, and get to know the justice herself, who even presided at Knizhnik’s marriage.The power of the cultural symbol, she says, spoke especially to young people.
  • Shana Knizhnik:Particularly young women don’t have that many examples of older women who have achieved the sort of status that she had achieved, but more so who had experienced discrimination herself, and then turned around and actually fought that discrimination.So, I think the intergenerational aspect of the Notorious RBG phenomenon is something that I always was extremely proud of.


And who can forget the “Gins-burn” from the hilarius Kate McKinnon. This brief clip from SNL shows the the Burn in all it’s glory (with love and respect, I believe).

Until next time, let our warm hearts soar!


And thank you for caring that little bit extra – it really makes a big difference.

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