The sense of loss was palpable Saturday night as hundreds came together in downtown Chicago to mourn the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — but so too was the spirit of perseverance.
Ginsburg, who died Friday at 87, was an icon of nearly mythic proportions to those who attended and a testament to what women can achieve.
“Other than my mom, she was one of the women who inspired me to be a feminist,” said one young attendee, Alex Pavel, who gathered with others in front of the Dirksen Federal Building at 219 S. Dearborn St. to remember the late justice.
Eileen Murphy, 65, came to the event from Buena Park and called Ginsburg an inspiration to all women because of her lifetime of advocacy for gender equality.
“So it’s with great sadness that I’m here, and I hope she’s at peace, and we will continue her work going forward,” Murphy said.
Speakers at the vigil rattled off a lengthy list of Ginsburg’s accomplishments and highlighted her groundbreaking life story, including being the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, but also used the moment to harness the group’s collective energy toward action.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot led the crowd of about 150 in a fist-raising chant, calling out, “In the name of Ruth, I will fight. In the name of Ruth, I will vote. And in the name of Ruth, we will win.”
Deborah Harris, executive director of the Chicago-based advocacy group Action Now, likewise urged the crowd to mobilize.
“Tonight the common thread has been that RBG held the line and she fought like hell,” Harris said. “This is not something that should be washed over. This is not the time for America to be timid.”
Ginsburg was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1993 after arguing cases before the court in the 1970s when she became an important figure in the women’s rights movement. Over the course of her tenure on the Supreme Court, “The Notorious R.B.G.” — as she was known to her fans — became an icon to women and girls across the United States as a staunch advocate for women’s rights, and for the liberal opinions she authored.
Members of the crowd were encouraged to hang personalized tags on a memorial that was erected between two trees in the plaza bearing the letters R.B.G.
Near the memorial, a sign was placed that seemed to capture the spirit of the night.
“Thank you RBG, we’ll take it from here,” it read.