This month would have marked the 88th birthday of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September from pancreatic cancer. Now, the trailblazing jurist—the second woman appointed to the nation’s highest court—is being honored with a new sculpture in her native Brooklyn.
The work of Gillie and Marc, the statue is the latest in the Australian artist duo’s “Statues for Equality” series, launched near Rockefeller Center on Women’s Equality Day in 2019. The initial project honored Oprah Winfrey, Pink, Nicole Kidman, Jane Goodall, Cate Blanchett, Tererai Trent, Janet Mock, Tracy Dyson, Cheryl Strayed, and Gabby Douglas with life-size bronzes.
The artists hope to draw attention to the fact that New York City suffers from a dearth of public monuments honoring real life women—until recent efforts to improve the situation, there were only five civic sculptures of historic women, compared to 145 of men.
Last summer, Central Park unveiled the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, honoring Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth. It was the first new permanent sculpture in the park in 70 years, and its first honoring a historic woman.
Meanwhile, the city’s She Built NYC initiative, launched in 2018, will build monuments to jazz legend Billie Holiday, public health pioneer Helen Rodríguez Trías, civil rights leader Elizabeth Jennings Graham, lighthouse keeper Katherine Walker, and Shirley Chisholm, the nation’s first Black congresswoman.
Those names were chosen after a public poll; when the most-suggested woman, Saint Frances Cabrini, wasn’t among those chosen for a statue, her fellow Italian American, Governor Andrew Cuomo, took it upon himself to arrange for a monument in her honor. The statue, by Jill and Giancarlo Biagi, was unveiled in Battery Park City this past October. (The pandemic has delayed the city’s statues indefinitely.)
Cuomo has also announced plans to erect a Ginsburg monument somewhere in Brooklyn.
Gille and Marc got Ginsburg’s approval for their statue before her death. “The statue… reflects her wish to be depicted in a dignified manner,” they said in a statement. “With the two steps on its large base representing the Supreme Court and the climb she made to get there, the work is designed to provide the public with an opportunity to stand at her side, and gain inspiration from her journey fighting for equal rights.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who was on hand for the work’s unveiling at City Point in Downtown Brooklyn, has declared March 15, the late justice’s birthday, Justice Ginsburg Day.
“RBG was clearly a symbol of what’s great about this country and how, when we are inclusive, we can stop the level of exclusiveness that is pervasive throughout this country,” he said, as reported by ABC News.
To visit the statue, you can make a free reservation with City Point. Visits last 20 minutes and can accommodate up to six guests. Face masks are required.