Janelle Diamond couldn’t sleep. She kept thinking about Friday night’s news, and what might happen next. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died at 87: What did that mean for her, for her daughter, for the country?
She crept into her daughter’s room just before 6 a.m. Saturday, kneeling next to her bed.
“Willa,” she whispered at their home in Baltimore. “Do you want to drive to D. C.?”
Willa, 11, immediately sat up.
Janelle gathered the essentials: their RBG bobblehead doll, a “nasty woman” pin and a candle with Ginsburg’s face painted on the side. She and Willa had been lighting it every time they heard she was back in the hospital.
The men in the house — Willa’s dad and her three brothers — stayed behind.
This was a trip for a mom and her daughter.
“Being the mother of a daughter, sometimes you feel like your child doesn’t necessarily have the same rights as her brother,” said Janelle, tearing up as she stood outside the Supreme Court on Saturday morning. “RBG is a very important figure in our lives as women.”
Janelle and Willa have been “RBG superfans” for years, Janelle said. She took Willa, and her own mother, to the “Notorious RBG” exhibit in Philadelphia for Willa’s birthday last year. When Willa was 9, she dressed up like Ginsburg for Halloween — with a gray wig, oversized glasses and a judge’s robe. To get into the role, she assumed a plank position, a much-celebrated Ginsburg pastime.
There were many mothers and daughters at the Supreme Court on Saturday morning. Some came to lay flowers or signs. Others stood on the side of the road, looking up at the flag, now lowered to half-staff. Daughters as young as 5 understood who RBG was, and why she was important. They’d seen her face on a T-shirt, or heard about her in a bedtime story.
“Did we talk about who died last night, and how powerful she was?” said Erin Hawk of Alexandria, Va., squatting next to her 5-year-old daughter.
“I needed her to see this,” Hawk said. “I wanted her to feel this.”
Hawk has been trying to teach her daughter, Grace, about the importance of gender equality. One of their favorite books tells the story of a female runner who was barred from the Boston marathon because of her gender.
“She wasn’t allowed to run because she was a — a what, Grace?”
“A girl,” Grace said, peeking out from behind her stroller.
“That’s right. Justice Ginsburg was also told she wasn’t able to do things because she was a girl. And Grace, what can you do now? You can do anything you want, right?”
Kristen Shattuck of Arlington, Va., has also made a point to tell her two daughters, ages 12 and 16, about Ginsburg. She’s been following her career since 1992, the first time she voted in a presidential election. She voted for Bill Clinton, then celebrated when he appointed Ginsburg to the court in 1993, making her just the second woman on the high court.
When “On the Basis of Sex” was released, she watched the movie about Ginsburg’s life with her daughters. Now both girls say they want to be lawyers. Marney, 12, has started an “Equality for All” club with her friends. Right now, they’re focusing on spreading awareness about Black Lives Matter, Marney said. They’ll be talking about gender equality next.
“It was really sad for our group when she passed away last night,” Marney said. “RBG was so inspiring to little girls all around the world.”
Lucy Cunningham, 8, has learned about Ginsburg in school. There was a “whole section” about her in her first-grade class, she said. She especially loved hearing about how Ginsburg’s husband did all the work around the house.
“She was kind of like our family because she had no idea how to cook, so the husband cooked,” said Cunningham, laughing as she looked up at her mom.
Willa was “heartbroken” when her mom told her that Ginsburg had died, she said. At first, she didn’t believe her.
“She goes, ‘Mom, Mom, that’s not funny,’” Janelle said.
Whenever Willa notices something unfair, she says, she thinks about Ginsburg — especially when it’s something that’s unfair for girls. Playing soccer last weekend, she noticed that all the boys had new jerseys, but none of the girls did. The boys’ teams are named after real soccer teams, she said, while the girls’ teams are named after colors.
That doesn’t seem fair, Willa said. Ginsburg, she says, inspires her to take action on issues she cares about.
Willa picked out the mask she was wearing especially for her visit to the Supreme Court. It’s tie-dye, with one word stitched into the fabric.