The scene outside Teton County Courthouse is usually quiet, and on the weekends it’s nearly deserted. But this was no ordinary Sunday. It was two days after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and the crowd that had amassed was chanting, “I dissent!”
Jackson Town Councilor Arne Jorgensen recorded the chant and sent it to Marilyn Kite, the first woman to sit on Wyoming’s Supreme Court. She was appointed to that high court just 20 years ago.
Ginsburg, a trailblazer for gender equality, led the way for Kite and countless others. And that was why many of the women KHOL spoke with showed up to honor the Supreme Court justice. Ginsburg, the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court, held her seat for 27 years. The work she did both before and during her time on the high court changed American life —the landmark cases she argued forced the law to treat men and women as equals. She died Friday from pancreatic cancer at the age of 87.
April Norton and her daughter Nell held signs thanking the fierce defender of women’s rights.
“Ruth Bader-Ginsburg is my hero—I cried and cried and cried on Friday night,” Norton said. “She fought for equality, she fought for me, she fought for my daughter, she fought for my mother. I am here to honor her legacy and I will vote that way and I will teach my children to do so as well.”
Jill Callahan was there with her six-month-old son Patrick. Her sign read “Future feminist,” with an arrow pointing to the baby. For Callahan, two words come to mind when she thinks of Ginsburg’s legacy: “Progress and change.”
Callahan said she watched the documentary on Ginsburg, RBG, and was struck how Ginsburg’s work paved the way for the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Before that legislation passed, women needed a male co-signer to open a bank account or sign a mortgage.
“All of these things we take for granted wouldn’t be possible without her,” Callahan said.
Roughly 50 people gathered at Town Square to attend the event “Steps for RBG.” It was organized by chair of the Board of Teton County Commissioners Natalia Macker. The commissioner summoned her best RBG, donning all black with a white neck ruffle she repurposed from her wedding dress. A small Ginsburg doll sat in her neck ruffle.
Many spoke of their awe for the woman RBG was. They also discussed their resolve to continue her work, Macker included. “We knew we had work to do as a country, as a community, but the stakes just got raised and it’s going to take all of us to answer and fill whatever void there may be from that. But I think she left us a good roadmap,” Macker said.
At George Washington Park in Town Square, Macker encouraged people to read RBG quotes from Mary Zaia’s book You Can’t Spell Truth without Ruth— like this famous one: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
In between speakers, Macker led the group in multiple rounds of pushups, a nod to RBG’s workout routine. She also encouraged people to offer up their own thoughts. Libby Crews-Wood stood before the crowd to discuss RBG’s moral character and how, she said, it contrasts what she is seeing today.
“I guess I’m most struck by the fact that Ruth Bader-Ginsburg proved herself to be just and objective before she sat on that bench,” Wood said. “I woke this morning angrier than I’ve ever been and I feel like people in this country are not proving, with boots on the ground, what it means to be respectful and protective of the United States Constitution and the people it was designed to protect.”
Other folks discussed how RBG was a master bridge builder—take her close friendship with her ideological opposite, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—and they encouraged people to follow in her footsteps.
“She really put her voice to work persuading others to her side, making compromises and finding common ground,” Anne Marie Wells said. “That’s what we need to remember this election season. It’s not about demonizing other people or saying what’s wrong with the other side. It’s about saying, ‘I see your point of view, I still disagree. How can we both come together in this moment to make progress on these issues that are important to us?’”
Wells said Jackson’s female leaders have made particular strides in this regard. But it cannot stop there. “We need to make sure that female leadership doesn’t happen one woman at a time, that more women are brought to the table every election.”
The group moved to the elk antler arches where they brandished signs that read, “We Must be Ruthless,” “We will keep fighting,” and “When there are nine.” The latter references RBG’s answer to the question, “When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?”
RBG explained that the high court had long been occupied by all men, so why not an all-female bench?
Eighty-seven pushups later, to signify RBG’s age, people ended their tribute at the Teton County Courthouse. Ash Hermanowski affixed a gay pride flag to the base of the flagpole as people positioned their signs around it. They then stood in silence for several minutes. Macker told folks not to leave without picking up a flyer. It listed ways to become civically engaged—voting, donating to organizations fighting for equal rights, and running for office. But first, Macker said three final words: “Thank you, Ruth.”
Multiple generations clad in RBG T-shirts, earrings, and necklaces walked away from the courthouse in purposeful strides. They seemed ready, as Macker put it, to get to work.