Exponent and the Notorious RBG

This is the story of how the home teaching program, true charity, and an immigrant introduced Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Mormon feminism.

My parents moved to the Washington DC suburbs fifteen years ago. Soon afterward, they became acquainted with a family in their ward: a woman (I’ll call her Gloria), her elderly mother, and her teenage son. They were immigrants from West Africa and the family struggled with issues of severe healthcare problems, eldercare, a language barrier, and finances. My parents have always taken home/visiting teaching seriously and when my dad was called as their home teacher, he went to work. He began making them dinner–always at least once a week, usually two or three times–and dropping it off at their apartment. He never talked about it much, but it became an important part of his life and over the following ten years, those dinners continued and my parents and Gloria became close friends.

Gloria supported her family as a house cleaner for residents of the Watergate Hotel. She confided in my dad that one of the apartments she cleaned was for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And not only had she met RBG, but RBG was friendly with her and they talked sometimes as Gloria worked. Gloria told RBG about her faith and RBG told Gloria that she had some Mormon friends and had a lot of respect for them.

My father, who regularly disagrees with me politically and religiously, loves me. So the first thing he asked is if Gloria could get me in to meet RBG. He really believed this might be possible and Gloria asked, but of course the Secret Service said no. So instead he asked if, during one of their conversations, Gloria could tell RBG about Exponent II. Gloria already knew all about Exponent–my parents subscribe and they had shown her copies of it and told her about their Mormon feminist daughter. I don’t think Gloria considers herself a Mormon feminist, but she agreed to be the missionary to spread the good word to the Supreme Court icon.

So Gloria told Ruth Bader Ginsburg about Mormon feminism and about Exponent II. RBG had many questions. So many questions. She was quite taken with the movement and delighted to learn about it. Gloria told her, “They asked me to tell you thank you” And RBG smiled and said, “You’re welcome. Tell them to keep up the good work.”

Those words have meant a lot to me over the years. Knowing that one of my heroes thought my work was worthwhile got me through some dark, hopeless times. They are the words that rang through my head this morning as I pulled myself out of bed with a headache and puffy eyes from crying. Keep up the good work. Make sure your work is good. There isn’t a woman in the United States whose life hasn’t been improved by Justice Ginsburg’s good work. So while I felt like lying on the couch and doom-scrolling all day, instead I put on my walking shoes and contacted my local precinct chair for a job to do.

Let’s pick up her torch and get to work. Justice needs us. And the Justice needs us.

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10 Responses

  1. E.Gray says:

    I love this story. Thanks for writing this up, Margaret. And thanks for continuing to do the good work.

  2. Em says:

    I love this. Thank you.

  3. Mary Young says:

    Thank you. You’ve helped my shut-in tears.
    Thank you, too, for the work you do for all of us.

  4. Heather says:

    I love this story. It showcases the goodness of people: your dad, Gloria, RBG, and you. It’s nice to be reminded.

  5. Liz says:

    I love this so much.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    Ah! As usual, you have written something that epitomizes all my favorite things about Exponent II and Mormon feminism. What a gift to have this story as we all mourn.

  7. Nancy Ross says:

    Thank you for this story, Margaret. So many things feel doomed and impossible right now, but I love the idea that RBG saw a copy of the Exponent II. That makes me smile.

  8. Ziff says:

    I love this story so much! Thanks for sharing it here.

  9. Caroline says:

    This is just delightful, Margaret. A balm in a time when I’m feeling too much anxiety and despair. RBG knew about us and was interested in us. Makes me smile just to think about it.

  10. Klee says:

    Exactly what Caroline said.
    Thank you.

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