MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Before her tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a prominent lawyer who was instrumental in establishing gender equality in the workplace as a legal concept. She brought that experience with her when President Bill Clinton nominated her to the high court in 1993. This was just two years after President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to become an associate justice. His confirmation hearings in 1991 captivated the nation after allegations surfaced that Thomas had sexually harassed a lawyer who had worked for him at a previous job.
That lawyer was Anita Hill, and she is now a professor of social policy law and women's studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. And she is with us now. Professor Hill, thank you so much for being with us on this sad day.
ANITA HILL: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: In her later years, Justice Ginsburg became a cultural figure, you know. And it's interesting, you know, we've been hearing from women of all ages about what she meant to them in the fight for equality under the law. And part of that fight includes speaking out against sexual harassment in the workplace as you did during those hearings in 1991. Did Ruth Bader Ginsburg's work advance the law in that area?
HILL: I think of her contributions as really helping us define in a very inclusive way what equality was going to mean, what it would look like if we ultimately get to it. And, of course, being inclusive, her impact did have very much to do with the issues of gender violence, including sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.
MARTIN: And, of course, she was perhaps best-known for her sharp dissents. And, of course, you testified against the nomination of Clarence Thomas. You were called to testify during those hearings. He was then confirmed, anyway. So in a sense, you're both associated with arguments that didn't win the day in that moment. And yet you are both cultural figures, I feel comfortable in saying, who continue to inspire many people. I just wonder why you think that is.
HILL: The fact that she continued to advocate on behalf of equality even though she was in the minority - I think that is what is inspiring a lot of people. And I'll give you the prime example. And that is in the Ledbetter case of involving equal pay for women. When the majority ruled in favor of the tire company that was paying Lilly Ledbetter less money, she wrote a dissent, read the dissent and urged Congress to correct the court's decision. And that actually happened in about a year and a half after she read her dissent from the bench. I think it was actions like that that really captured our imagination and said that even when you may seem to be down and your position may seem to be lost, there are ways that you can move on to win.
MARTIN: So is that the legacy you think that she will leave? How would you describe it?
HILL: Oh, I think her legacy is so large, you know. One of the things that concerns me most is that we will no longer have a pioneer in the civil rights movement or women's rights movement on the court. And I think we are losing something now that we've lost that voice, you know. We had it with Thurgood Marshall, and we've had it with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And I hope that somehow we can regain that.
MARTIN: That is Anita Hill. She is a professor at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Professor Hill, thank you so much for speaking with us today.
HILL: Thank you.
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