Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Tenacity

Weds is senior movie night at the Magic Lantern here in Spokane, so we motored down the hill, found parking, and settled in at the theater to enjoy a bio-pic (Magnolia Pictures documentary), about U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

The film rolled, a beautiful blend of photos, videos and interviews, mixed between the present and the past. I did not expect to be taken back to the 1970's.

For Ruth Bader Ginsberg's legal advocacy for rights for women was shaped by the values of the times, post World War II, the civil rights and women's liberation movements, and an environment of deeply embedded prejudice against women.

At my high school in 1961, all graduates were required to have an exit interview with a counselor to discuss our future path. My greatest and most impossible ambition was to attend college. The counselor greeted me: "So, when are you getting married."

I simply got a job and began working my way through college, sometimes full time and sometimes part time. At Chico State, in California, one class intrigued me: "The Economic History of Great Britain." In a class of 70 students, I was the only woman.  As the professor glanced around the class on the first day, he went on a rant -- directed at me. "How dare you take the space of a man who will need to support his family. Why are you here?"

I kept my head down. I knew how to survive bullies. At the end of the class, the professor announced an oral final -- in his office. After a grueling 2-hour final, face-to-face with my nemesis, he grudgingly commented, "I guess you know the material." I earned an A.

But then I ran into two buddies from that class. "How did the final go?" I asked.

"Easy," replied one. "In and out in 5 minutes."

Generally speaking, when someone said I couldn't do something, I quietly got to work. And that's why this powerful movie, RBG, is well worth seeing.

For RBG reminds us of a time when perseverance made a real difference in our culture, our expectations, and our dreams. Ruth Bader Ginsburg's role in redefining "equal protection under the law" to all citizens changed the lives of women and many, many others.

When I retired from teaching about ten years ago and seriously began writing, my first book, Standing Stones, was set in the time of the Industrial Revolution and its impact on one struggling family of fishermen in northern Scotland.

Where did I learn about the Industrial Revolution? That long ago history class I took at Chico State.