Remembering RBG and Her Connection to Pauli Murray

It began with young men, beer, and the Honk ‘n’ Holler in Stillwater, Oklahoma. As I tend my grief around the loss of the inestimable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I find it comforting to learn more about her journey to battle gender discrimination. In her role as an attorney for the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, Ginsburg worked to support gender equality through the courts.  In 1976 she joined the team representing the suit brought by a young man named Curtis Craig and Caroline Whitener, the female proprietor of the Honk n’ Holler, a bar near the campus of Oklahoma State University.  At the time women were allowed to buy beer at the age of 18, but men not until they reached the age of 21. Knowing she would be arguing before an all-male Supreme Court, Ginsburg understood that winning this battle for men would necessarily advance gender equality for women as well. Learn more about the case here.

Ginsburg’s legal path was deeply influenced by the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray, the Black lesbian, Episcopal priest, and legal scholar. In 1971, the “Reed v. Reed” Supreme Court case marked the first time the Equal Protection Clause was applied to sex discrimination, and has served as precedent for many arguments in the ensuing decades. Ginsburg credits Murray’s work as the inspiration for her brief in that case, and put Murray down as honorary co-author.

Both Murray and Ginsburg will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come. “Preach Like Pauli,” this year’s theme for the annual Homegrown Women’s Preaching Festival, scheduled for Oct 15-16, offers an immediate opportunity to learn from and be inspired by Murray. Yale Homiletics Professor Donyelle McCray, currently working on a book about Murray, will offer two lectures to keynote the conference. Workshop sessions also address ongoing themes of discrimination, as session topics include ableism and disability activism, and decolonizing racist worship practices. Register here.

The chance to learn more about Murray makes this conference fertile ground for both lay women and clergywomen. All of us can deepen our understanding and find inspiration and tools to better address systemic racism in our society.

Pauli Murray, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Harvard University

We are deeply grateful for the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and for her clever and systematic application of the work of Pauli Murray to advance gender equality. Please join in community with us at Homegrown to mourn, to honor, and to be inspired.

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