| Ginsburg's Gauntlet |

IMG_8028_72dpi Ginsburg's Gauntlet
24"h x 24"w, burnt birchwood, plaster, beeswax, 2021, edition of 12

The edition is sold, but please contact me if you are interested in a related commissioned work.

Chalk drawing with my daughter Fiona
Idaho Supreme Court, Boise, Idaho, September 2020

Last fall, I made a chalk drawing as a memorial to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was based on one of RBG's favorite collars from Cape Town, South Africa. As a constitutional scholar, she had a strong appreciation for the relatively new South African constitution which she said "was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, had an independent judiciary. It really is a great piece of work." I made the drawing on a September morning on the sidewalk in front of the Idaho Supreme Court. Ginsburg's first ground-breaking case, Reed v. Reed, originated in Idaho in 1971. My sister, who is a lawyer, asked if I could make something similar, yet permanent, for her new office. After messing around in my studio, this is what turned up.

I started by drawing RBG's favorite collar freehand on a birchwood panel. Then I carved out all the lines and filled them in with wet plaster. Once dried, I sanded down the plaster, burned the entire piece, and sealed it in melted beeswax. Then I went back in and etched out some highlights with an embroidery needle. I liked the process and loved how it turned out. It feels both delicate and strong. Simple, yet enduring.

While whittling away on this new work for my sister and with so much thought on RBG and how she changed the world for the better through her brilliant practice of the law, I decided that I had to make MORE than just one and dedicate each to a different RBG case. So I chose twelve of her cases that most advanced human rights and got to work. Each one is signed on the back and dedicated to one of the RBG cases outlined below.

Gauntlet. After all the research I did for this project, this single word from an excellent article by Vanessa Friedman captivated me. "Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Lace Collar Wasn't an Accessory, It Was a Gauntlet," The New York Times, Sept. 20, 2020. To me, it perfectly sums up the professional life of RBG and her simple act of showing up to work in one of her many coded collars.


1) Reed v. Reed, 1971*
Which, for the first time, used the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to successfully show that gender discrimination was in violation of the U.S. Constitution. This case originated in Idaho and was a pivotal moment in the history of the ongoing fight for women's rights.

2) Moritz v. Commissioner, 1972
Which, again, ruled that discrimination on the basis of sex constitutes a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

3) Wienberger v. Wiesenfeld, 1975
Which ensured rights for widowed men to collect their late wives' Social Security benefits while elevating the value of women's work.

4) United States v. Virginia, 1996
Which reversed a Virginia Military Institute policy that barred women from being admitted.

5) United States v. O'Hagan, 1997
Which recognized that making trades in securities for personal profit, using insider information, is in violation of Securities and Exchange Commission rules.

6) Olmstead v. L.C., 1999
Which ruled that people with mental disabilities may not be forced to live in psychiatric institutions when state medical professionals deem it unnecessary.

7) Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc., 2000
Which ruled that these South Carolina residents had standing in a suit against an industrial polluter and further supported the use of civil penalties in Clean Water Act cases to deter future violations.

8) Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003
Which ruled in favor of race-based affirmative action in university admissions policies in order to promote diversity.

9) Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015
Which legalized same-sex marriage in every state across the country.

10) Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 2016
Which ruled against a Texas law that imposed excessive regulations on abortion clinics that seemed to be designed solely to deter women from getting abortions.

11) Sessions v. Dimaya, 2018
Which struck down a law that allowed for the expulsion of certain non-citizens because of the law's violation of due process and legislative vagueness.

12) Timbs v. Indiana, 2019
Which reinforced the 8th Amendment ban against excessive fines by applying it also to local and state governments.


* I am honored that the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, based here in Idaho, has committed to purchasing Reed v. Reed. Additionally, 10% of ALL sales will be donated to the Wassmuth Center to help fund their new building, the entranceway of which is to be dedicated to Justice Ginsburg.

In the studio (sanding, burning, sketchbook)


Copyright Ⓒ 1998-2021 Katherine Shaughnessy