RBG, Nina Totenberg and the friendship that bound them

This morning I read Nina Totenberg’s tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsberg and their 50-year friendship. Lovingly written, the NPR obituary is a series of vignettes that

have little to do with her brilliance, hard work or devotion to the law, or even her pioneering role as the architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in this country. 

“Rather,” Totenberg continues,

they are examples of her extraordinary character, decency and commitment to friends, colleagues, law clerks — just about everyone whose lives she touched. I was lucky enough to be one of those people.

The first story Totenberg relates about her friendship with RBG reveals the depth of the future Justice’s commitment to her friend:

She was still on the D.C. Circuit in 1988 when the Cosmos Club, after years of effort from many of its male members, finally voted to admit women. Against my better judgment, I agreed to be proposed as one of the first female members. But, as it turned out, I was blackballed. While I was happy not to have to pay the significant fees associated with membership, the truth is I was really hurt, and I must have told Ruth about it.

Some time later, RBG was invited to visit the club, and at the end of a tour of its lovely interior, her escort invited her to become a member. As the story was related to me, Ruth paused, and in that quiet, low voice of hers, said to her escort, “You know, I think that a club that is too good for Nina Totenberg is too good for me, too.”

The story of two women, reporter and Supreme Court Justice, and their friendship despite their potentially adversarial professions touched me deeply. If you have read this far, I am sure you will enjoy “A 5-Decade-Long Friendship That Began With A Phone Call.”

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