Governor Announces New Portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Official Unveiling Spring 2023
Governor Kathy Hochul has announced plans to honor Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and Brooklyn native Ruth Bader Ginsburg this spring with the unveiling of a permanent portrait carving of the justice’s likeness in the New York State Capitol.
“When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there would be enough women on the U.S. Supreme Court, she famously replied, ‘When there are nine,’” Governor Hochul said. “By carving her portrait into the Capitol, we are both honoring Justice Ginsburg’s legacy as a trailblazer for justice and gender equality, and also celebrating New York’s history as the birthplace of the women’s rights movement.”
New York State Office of General Services Commissioner Jeanette Moy said, “Justice Ginsburg was an inspiring, remarkable jurist whose tireless fight for gender equity proved that ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made’ and who followed her own philosophy to ‘leave tracks’ and make the world a better place for others. It is an honor for all of us at OGS to have a role in adding Justice Ginsburg’s likeness to the Great Western Staircase and become a part of the New York State Capitol’s storied history.”
Jane Ginsburg and Jim Ginsburg said, “My brother and I, and the entire Ginsburg family, are deeply moved that our mother’s home state of New York has honored her by placing her image in the magnificent Western Staircase. It is particularly fitting that she will appear close to John Jay, her great predecessor on the US Supreme Court, whom she admired.”
Justice Ginsburg’s portrait will be the first new carving added to the Great Western Staircase since the completion of the staircase in 1898 and only the seventh woman depicted in the staircase gallery. The second-floor location chosen for the carving will place Justice Ginsburg at a level of the building where only men have been depicted to date. The location selected for Justice Ginsburg’s portrait is a blank expanse directly above John Jay, the U.S. Supreme Court’s first chief justice and the only Supreme Court justice whose portrait is carved on the Great Western Staircase. Justice Ginsburg’s likeness will be carved in the same style as the existing 19th-century portraits carved in the staircase’s Corsehill sandstone.
In November 2022, the Ginsburg family approved figurative sculptor Meredith Bergmann’s model of the proposed portrait carving. Bergmann is the female figurative artist who sculpted the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in New York City’s Central Park, which features suffragists Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The Great Western Staircase at the New York State Capitol is a monumental interior stair constructed of elaborately carved Corsehill sandstone. The stair was carved between 1884 and 1898. The only modern carving that has occurred at the stair was to correct the misspelling in Frederick Douglass’ name in 2019. The staircase includes intricate carvings of flora, fauna, symbols, and the faces of named great Americans, including the first 30 governors of New York State, United States presidents, explorers, politicians, inventors, scientists, authors, soldiers, poets, activists, and abolitionists.
There are currently six portraits of women carved on the Great Western Staircase, all below the second floor: Molly Pitcher, Revolutionary War soldier; Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Susan B. Anthony, suffragist leader; Clara Barton, Civil War nurse; Elmina P. Spencer, Civil War nurse; and Frances E. Willard, temperance crusader.