Three women on the Supreme Court; one thing in common

As of yesterday, the famous first Monday in October, the U.S. Supreme Court has three female justices; not at the halfway mark yet, but a third is pretty good given that the first woman on the court, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, was also the only woman from 1981 until Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined her in 1993. (O’Connor retired in 2006.)

All three active justices — Ginsburg, 77, Sonia Sotomayor, 56, and the recently confirmed Elena Kagan, 50 — have more in common than their Ivy League educations.

Neither Sotomayor nor Elena Kagan has children. The more-than-a-generation-older Ginsburg has two children, now grown, but she had a remarkably supportive husband — a man way before his time. Martin Ginsburg, who died earlier this year, had a career as an academic and a practicing attorney — he was Ross Perot’s tax lawyer — but shared from the start in the childcare and was a pro in the grocery store and the kitchen.

Back in June 1993, I was listening to NPR in my car when I heard Ginsburg’s acceptance — in the White House Rose Garden — of Bill Clinton’s nomination of her to the Supreme Court. Clinton was moved — his eyes welled with tears — and so was I. Ginsburg paid tribute to her late mother, Celia Bader, who, I learned later — for a short time I was researching a biography of Ruth Ginsburg — had deliberately withheld instruction in the domestic arts from her daughter, determined that she would have a serious career. “I pray that I may be all that she would have been,” Ginsburg said, “had she lived in an age when women could aspire and achieve and daughters are cherished as much as sons.”