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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anne Frank And Their Idaho Connections

ruth-bader-ginsburg-columbia-law-school.jpg
Courtesy of family of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
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Much of the world knew of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's love for Anne Frank. The U.S. Supreme Court Justice, who died in September 2020, would often quote Frank, born in 1929 but died 14 years later in a Nazi concentration camp."When I became active in the movement to open doors to women, enabling them to enter occupations once closed to them," said Ginsburg, born in 1933, "I was heartened by the words of a girl of my generation." 

To honor the late Supreme Court Justice, the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, home of the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise, is planning a special placque at the Center's planned Education Center, expected to break ground later this year.

Additionally, Ginsburg had her own connection to Idaho: She wrote the defense brief in the landmark 1971 Reed v. Reed case before the U.S. Supreme Court, with Bosie attorney Allen Derr defending Sally Reed. The case would become the foundation of the 2018 film "On the Basis on Sex," with actress Felicity Jones portraying the young RBG.

Dr. Dan Prinzing, executive director of the Wassmuth Center and Sam Anderson, volunteer at the Center, visit with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the much-anticipated education center, plus Ginsburg's very unique connection to Idaho.

“It's the power of words. And it is that personal empowerment that we see where the individual can make a difference.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. In 2019, one of the world's great jurists… and great writers… quoted another great writer: “Education, work in progress, opens all of our eyes and grant equal rights.” The woman who wrote that originally, in 1945, was the   young Anne Frank. And the woman who quoted her was the eternally young Ruth Bader Ginsburg… and that was just a couple of years ago. And there isn't a day that goes by that they are not revered, remembered and missed terribly. We're going to talk a bit about their particular connection this morning with Dr. Dan Prinzing, executive director of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, and Sam Anderson, volunteer at the Wassmuth Center. Good morning to you both. Sam, let's get right to it. You're raising funds to do what?

SAM ANDERSON: Right now, the Wassmuth Center is raising funds for a memorial plaque for Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the new education center as part of the Wassmuth Center.

PRENTICE: Dan Prinzing…the notorious, and I do mean that with all due respect… RBG fits perfectly into the Wassmuth Center, does she not?

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Credit Wassmuth Center for Human Rights
Artist rendering of Wassmuth Education Center

DR. DAN PRINZING: Very much so. You know, I'm almost linking it back to when Secretary Clinton said that women's rights are human rights. And by recognizing RBG right at the entrance of the new center, we're really calling out not only our biggest legacy, but that work in recognition of human rights… to promote and protect human dignity.

PRENTICE: Full disclosure, the late, great Boise attorney, Allen Derr, was a friend of mine, I'm proud to say. And of course, his connection with Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the now-famous Reid v. Reid case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which led to the so called “On the Basis of Sex” trial, was historic. And Sally Reid lived here in Boise. Dan… there are so many connections here.

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Credit Courtesy Allen Derr
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Allen Derr

PRINZING: Very much so. You know, George, we're not only celebrating the Center’s 25th anniversary this year, but it is the 55th anniversary of that landmark Supreme Court case.

PRENTICE: Sam, give me some dollar numbers here. Where are you with fundraising?

ANDERSON: So right now, we're raising money for $75,000 and we're halfway there. We've just raised $37,000. And so we're getting close, but we still have a bit to go. And we appreciate all the support from the community.

PRENTICE: Well, as a layperson, $75,000 is not a small amount of money. So that sounds like a pretty impressive plaque. So, paint me a word picture of what this might look like.

ANDERSON: So, this plaque is going to feature a quote by our RBG, which was chosen by her children. And this quote is going to read, “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will let others join you.”

PRENTICE: Dan, the wonderful thing about the Anne Frank Memorial and the Wassmuth Center is how many young folks walk through the door.

PRINZING: It is very much so. You know, of course, at this center, like the memorial, it's the power of words. And it is that personal empowerment that we see where the individual can make a difference, whether you're in the memorial or when you walk into the new center, the power of words will carry. And how fitting it will be right at the entrance to see not only a tribute to our RBG, but the reading of, as Sam has just shared, you know, what is leadership? How do we encourage others to join us? When you think in terms of our biggest legacy and as you started with George, I think is just a fitting tribute with it, she herself would often reference Anne Frank. A colleague of ours had actually received a letter written by RBG quoting Anne Frank and telling another young girl, “Hey, this is why this story is important. This is why it should be shared.” When that crossed my desk, I said, this is definitely when the volunteer committee approached us and said, can we create an opportunity to share RBG’s legacy with the future? Can we bring her into the new center? Each of the floors in the new center have been funded and dedicated. And so at $75,000 price tag, we knew this was going to be a major volunteer effort. We're delighted that already having established 50 percent of the cost, that they're now sitting in a situation to match the dollar for dollar match. You know, for every dollar coming in, there's a dollar support in there.

PRENTICE: Dan, best case scenario: what are you thinking about as far as installing this plaque at the current trajectory?

PRINZING: So, the campaign went public on January 18th, just a little over a week ago, it went public at 50 percent of the campaign. This is a $3,000,000 campaign and we went public once we raised $1.5 million at our current pace. We're looking that we could actually be breaking ground this September.

PRENTICE: My goodness, Sam, the best connection is what?

ANDERSON: The Wassmuth Center’s website. You can also donate on the Facebook page as well.

PRENTICE: Dr. Dan Prinzing and Sam Anderson…thank you for what you do, and have yourself a good morning.

PRINZING: Thank you. Have a good morning, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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