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Bowdoin community mourns death of Justice Ginsburg

September 25, 2020

Mackey O'Keefe
Grieving together: A speaker addresses Brunswick community members at a vigil Sunday night.

Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last Friday, the Bowdoin community is mourning her passing this week. A virtual celebration of her life as an icon and trailblazer for gender equality under the law, hosted by the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG) and the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies (GSWS) Department, will take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

The town of Brunswick, too, is grieving. On Sunday night, a vigil for Ginsburg was hosted by Brunswick Area Indivisible, a local volunteer group, on the Brunswick Mall. Nearly 100 community members attended, including some Bowdoin students living off campus in Brunswick. They listened to representatives from the Maine Democratic Party and the League of Women Voters, as well as other speakers, share how Ginsburg’s legal legacy and personal history impacted them.

SWAG also hosted an event on Sunday evening where students were invited to gather virtually and share how they felt in the wake of Ginsburg’s passing. The event was led by Associate Director of SWAG Rachel Reinke and Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion and Diversity and SWAG Director Kate Stern, who both hoped that by gathering together, albeit over Zoom, students would be able to share and grieve.

“We were getting the sense that this is impacting people in different ways, and some people were struggling,” said Stern in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Our 2020 College Street and SWAG mission is to create community and connection, both for students on campus as well as for students from all over the world.”

While some students came to the event to mourn the death of Ginsburg, others expressed their anxiety about the seat on the Supreme Court made vacant by Ginsburg’s passing that the Trump administration is pushing to fill imminently. Some students attended just hoping to learn more about Ginsburg’s influential life.

“What Rachel and I have found really meaningful is the intergenerational impact her passing is having,” Stern said.

SWAG and GSWS are coming together to host a celebration of Ginsburg’s life tonight over Zoom. Bowdoin staff, faculty and students from the Bowdoin Women’s Association (BWA) and the Bowdoin Reproductive Justice Coalition (RJC) will speak about the impact of Ginsburg’s life, as well as the ongoing fight for gender equality that she leaves behind.

Samantha Schwimmer ’21, a leader of RJC, is a speaker tonight. She plans to discuss Ginsburg’s role as a trailblazer for women’s rights, especially for Jewish women, while also recognizing that she was not a perfect Supreme Court justice.

“I’m planning on talking about the strides Ruth Bader Ginsburg made within her career, specifically looking at what she’s done for women but also immigrant communities, the LGBTQ community and voting rights as well…while also acknowledging the imperfections within her career,” said Schwimmer in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

Harrison King McCann Professor of English and Director of the GSWS Program Marilyn Reizbaum will also speak about social justice and read remarks from Rabbi Lisa Vinikoor, who will not be able to attend the event, as well as Linda Nelson ’83, a founding member of the Women’s Resource Center (now SWAG). After formal remarks are made, students will be encouraged to share the influence the ‘notorious’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg had on their lives.

“I think it’s gonna be a really great way of bringing people together in a time where we feel really vulnerable to this loss,” Reinke said.

Julia Jennings contributed to this report.


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