The legislation, signed into law last month, will place statues of the two trailblazing female justices on Capitol grounds
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL) held a press conference celebrating the passage of legislation to honor former Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor. The bipartisan legislation, which President Biden signed into law last month, will place statues of the two trailblazing female justices on the U.S. Capitol campus.
Klobuchar, Pelosi, and Frankel were joined by Justice O’Connor’s son Scott and daughter-in-law Joanie and Justice Ginsburg’s former clerk Professor Kelsi Corkran.
“Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were two leaders who opened the doors for so many women in this country at a time when so many insisted on keeping them shut,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation…is about making sure that when anyone walks through the halls of Congress, they know that women have a place in our country’s history and thus, in our country’s future.”
“I want you to know how excited the Members of Congress are, the pride that we take, and the lesson it will be for all young girls and others who walk through the Capitol to see the recognition, well deserved and appropriate, for these two great leaders of our country. For our country’s history, making a difference for our country’s future,” said Pelosi.
“I am very proud that future generations, that millions of visitors, especially children from all over the world, are going to come through the Capitol and see the statues of these women…I can’t wait to bring my two little grandsons by one day and say: ‘Hey you see, girls can do it too,’” said Frankel.
“The O’Connor family thanks Senator Klobuchar, Congresswoman Frankel, and Speaker Pelosi for…championing the legislation,” said Scott O’Connor. “We’re delighted that Mom is sharing the honor with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her colleague, and her family. I know that if my dad were here standing alongside Marty Ginsburg, the two of them would be patting each other on the back and beaming with pride.”
“When the Justice began her career over half a century ago as an advocate for gender equality, she understood the ways that our system of law privileged the perspectives of the powerful, and she took it upon herself to name and correct the distortions that result from that imbalance…And when she didn’t succeed, she held on to what she described as ‘the dissenter’s hope’: that shedding light on injustice today will help eradicate it tomorrow,” said Justice Ginsburg’s former law clerk Professor Kelsi Corkran.“I am deeply grateful to the Speaker, to Senator Klobuchar and Representative Frankel for their leadership in enacting this legislation to honor Justice Ginsburg and her dear friend and fellow truthteller Justice O’Connor. I hope their statues will inspire visitors and lawmakers alike to trailblaze, to name out loud the injustices embedded in our legal system and to take meaningful steps to eliminate them. And when necessary, to dissent with all the hope we can muster.”
Justice Ginsburg’s granddaughter, Clara Spera also released the following statement: “Our family is deeply honored to help mark the grand occasion of the announcement of statutes in honor of our grandmother and mother, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and of her dear friend and colleague, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor…My grandmother and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor were trailblazers long before their respective nominations to the Supreme Court…It is also especially appropriate that they be honored together, in recognition of their great friendship and mutual esteem. When they served as the lone women on the court, they sometimes found that male lawyers tended to confuse them, even though they looked nothing alike. We trust that the statues will not need to reproduce the t-shirts their clerks gave them one year: "I'm Ruth, she's Sandra"; "I'm Sandra, she's Ruth."
Klobuchar first introduced the legislation with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) last July. In December, it passed the Senate unanimously. The legislation passed by a bipartisan vote of 349-63 in the House, thanks to the leadership of the Democratic Women’s Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswomen Lois Frankel (D-FL), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Vice Chairs Congresswomen Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) and Bipartisan Women’s Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswomen Madeleine Dean (D-PA) and Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR).
Thank you so much Madam Speaker. And again, thank you to Congresswoman Frankel and thank you to Senator Sinema, who was here earlier, Senators Murkowski and Collins, the four of us sponsored this bill in the U.S. Senate. Also, Congresswoman Dean is here I know, the Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus. And I also wanted to recognize Congresswoman Lofgren, who I dont think is with us, but is the Chair of the House Administration Committee and helped make this possible as well. As the Speaker mentioned, Scott O’Connor is here. I had so much fun calling Scott to tell him that we got this done. I don’t think people ever believe sometimes we actually pass bills, but we do. And I think he was pretty surprised, as well as his wife, Joanie. And then also Professor Kelsi Corkran who’s here who is from Georgetown Law and was a former clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kelsi is going to be sharing a message from their family.
As the Speaker mentioned, the Capitol is our most recognizable symbol of democracy—a place where people from all over the country go to visit. I was just with a school group today, their eyes wide open as they see our beautiful Capitol.
And the issue is, right now it is full of statues that depict so many Americans that, yes, helped shape our republic. But those fortunate enough to spend time in the Capitol, quickly notice it’s a whole bunch of guys.
In fact, of more than 200 statues in the Capitol, only 14 feature women. That’s right. 200 statues in the Capitol and only 14 feature women. When I once brought up the similar numbers of Senators in the Capitol on the Trevor Noah show, Madam Speaker, he said if a nightclub had those numbers, they’d shut it down. But we are not shutting the Capitol down, we are opening it up by adding to the numbers for women. We plan on adding more people of color as well to the Capitol and the Speaker mentioned some of this under her guidance has already occurred.
But this is a special day for two families and for honoring two incredible women. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were two leaders who opened the doors for so many women in this country at a time when so many insisted on keeping them shut.
Sandra Day O’Connor rose from an Arizona cattle ranch to the highest court in the land. Even after graduating in the top tenth percentile of her law school class at Stanford, she struggled to find work as an attorney. Period. Stop. As an attorney in the 1950s. But she persevered. She took an unpaid job as a deputy county attorney in California just to prove herself, and through the rest of her career, she did that over and over again. She was later appointed to the County Superior Court in Arizona and then the Arizona State Court of Appeals before making history as the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
When she left the Court in 2006—after serving for 25 years—her commitment to our nation never wavered. I saw her when she came and testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about civics. And she founded a nonprofit dedicated to civic education. As I told Scott, I saw her in Arizona once when I did an event with Gabby Giffords. She shared her love of our democracy with the next generation.
We are also, of course, honored to join the clerk of Justice Ginsburg and her family, who I’ve also talked to many of times, remotely here to honor her. The Notorious RBG. Not everyone gets a viral nickname in their 80’s, but she did. She entered her law school class at Harvard as one of nine women—and ultimately graduated from Columbia first in her class. Despite her intellect, credentials, and glowing recommendations, she was rejected for a Supreme Court clerkship because she was a woman. Little did that justice know that rejected her, Ruth Ginsburg would one day walk through the same halls as a justice herself. Because in 1993, she was confirmed to the United States Supreme Court.
As we all know, she never gave up and never stopped advocating for the advancement of women. When you look at her opinions, it’s clear she wasn’t writing for today—she was writing for the future. As the rabbi said at the beautiful memorial that Speaker Pelosi helped organize in the Capitol, Justice Ginsburg’s dissents never read like cries of defeat – they were blueprints for the future. We like to say that about some of the bills that were waiting around in the U.S. Senate.
This legislation is about more than refreshing the artwork in the Capitol, let us make that clear—it’s about making sure that when anyone walks through the halls of Congress, they know that women have a place in our country’s history and thus, in our country’s future.
Thank you so much.