It was Superhero Day at 8-year-old Michele Threefoot's elementary school, but instead of being Super Girl or Wonder Woman, the Columbia third-grader opted to be her real-life hero: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Little did she know, days later the Supreme Court Justice would see her picture on the internet and handwrite her a special note.
Michele was inspired to dress up as Ginsburg after reading "I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark," a biographical picture book by Debbie Levy, according to Michele's mother, Krista Threefoot, 37. The book highlights times when Ginsburg faced challenges and stood up for herself, Threefoot said.
"It didn't surprise me because [Michele] just kind of thinks outside the box," Threefoot said, adding that her daughter is "passionate about fairness between boys and girls" and isn't all that interested in Marvel characters.
But when she read the book about Ginsburg, Threefoot said Michele would get "fired up" learning about the teachers who tried to force Ginsburg, who's left-handed, to use her right hand, or when no one would hire Ginsburg, once a top graduate of her class full of men, because she was a woman, a mother and Jewish.
"Whenever we got to that part, [Michele] was like 'That's not fair,'" Threefoot said.
On Superhero Day, a week before Christmas, the mother and daughter together created the Ginsburg-inspired costume, pulling out a dress that still fit Michele from storage. Threefoot popped the frames out of an old pair of sunglasses and fixed her daughter's hair into a tidy style that resembles Ginsburg's signature look. Big flower earrings were the final touch, she said.
To her classmates, Michele's costume wasn't easily recognizable.
"They didn't really know who I was that well," Michele said. "It was weird because I had a sticker" that said Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
But on the internet, it was a different story.
Threefoot snapped a picture of Michele, and shared pictures taken by photographer Jody McKinley. Both caused a stir online, with multiple news outlets wanting to interview Michele and use her pictures, Threefoot said, but the biggest surprise was yet to come.
Threefoot received a message from Ginsburg's assistant days after the pictures were taken. Ginsburg wanted to write Michele a note.
And on the night of Jan. 5, Threefoot received Ginsburg's letter and surprised Michele with it the next morning.
She opened it, and inside, dated Dec. 23, Ginsburg had written: "Dear Michele, You look just like me! May you continue to thrive on reading and learning. Every good wish, Ruth Bader Ginsburg."
A second, typed note from the Supreme Court Justice said, "Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true."
"I feel great," Michele said, days after reading Ginsburg's letter. "I was really excited and happy."
Threefoot said her daughter's favorite part was when Ginsburg noticed the striking resemblance.
"That was the whole point!" she said.
Threefoot shared pictures of Michele opening the letter on Facebook, which also attracted multiple media outlets, many which reposted her original photos in her costume and told her story again.
The comments, Threefoot said, have been overwhelmingly positive.
"Everybody is just saying 'This gives me so much hope for the future,' and people are just excited to see a little girl think for herself," she said. "It's made a lot of people happy, and that's a good thing,"
Latest Baltimore Insider
Asked what she'd say to Ginsburg, given the chance, Michele replied, "Thank you for the letter. .... Thank you for changing our lives."