Perspective: RBG And Me

Sep 25, 2020

RBG. My personal connection. August 10, 1993. The White House.

There she stood at the pinnacle of her legal career, diminutive in stature, with a soft voice, her right hand raised, being sworn in as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Fast forward, twelve and a half minutes into her acceptance speech, she is quoting my aunt, Esther Rothstein, a Chicago attorney, about the attributes of women attorneys.

“Esther said she found women attorneys to be tough yet tender, wanting to win, but not vindictive, cautiously optimistic with the sense to settle for victories that do not leave one’s opponent bloodied and bowed, willing to be a link in the chain that is strong, yet pliable.”

I knew why. They had met and bonded earlier that year at the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent awards.

Esther’s quote described the approach to lawyering that RBG used in her masterful incremental impact litigation that created the path to gender equality for us all.

I also had the honor to meet her when I was sworn in to practice at the supreme court.

I am grateful to my aunt and to RBG for their vision, their perseverance and their example: models of civic virtue, devoted servants of the law. patient, courteous, kindly and yet magnificently strong.

More doors opened and more cracks appeared in the glass ceiling because of them that allowed me (and so many other women) to have a fulfilling career as a lawyer and a judge.

May they rest in peace.

I’m Kathryn Zenoff, and that’s my perspective.