Many people have looked up to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a role model. Fewer have gotten a note from the trailblazing jurist after going viral for dressing like her.
That’s what happened to Michele Threefoot of Columbia in 2017. The then-8-year-old was inspired by reading Debbie Levy’s biographical picture book, “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark," that she and her mother, Krista Threefoot, created a costume for her school’s Superhero Day. Photos of Michele went far and wide online, and Ginsburg ultimately reached out to her through an assistant.
“Dear Michele, You look just like me! May you continue to thrive on reading and learning. Every good wish, Ruth Bader Ginsburg," the note from the justice read.
Almost four years later, with many mourning Ginsburg’s death from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer on Friday, Michele Threefoot has not forgotten the gesture.
“She was there for me in my life for almost half of my life, and you can’t take that away,” the now-12-year-old said on Saturday. “She’s important to me and my family, and she’s the only hero I have that isn’t, like, my family.”
Michele and Krista Threefoot both said they were shocked and saddened by the news of Ginsburg’s passing.
“It’s really sad, actually, because I didn’t really know she was sick until I heard that she had died,” Michele said. “It was kind of a big surprise for me, I did not expect her to die. I thought she was going to live to 90, I thought for sure.”
“We’re all mourning the loss of an icon, but I think a lot of people are really inspired by everything she fought for,” Krista added. “So, a sad moment, but also an invigorating moment.”
Back when she dressed as Ginsburg, the younger Threefoot connected with the justice’s heralded legacy of fighting for gender and social equality.
Today, she and her mother still feel attached to the fight for equality that Ginsburg often symbolized. Krista said that she participates in the League of Women Voters and has been active in campaigning for equal education funding in Howard County. Michele marched with her mother and the League in Columbia last Fourth of July. Two years ago, Michele also organized a gift drive for the International Rescue Committee through her Girl Scouts troop.
“It doesn’t really matter what gender you are, you were born that way and you can’t help that you’re born a certain gender, or born a certain color, or you like someone that’s the same gender as you, or anything else,” Michele said. “You can’t help that you’re born with that, and people shouldn’t make fun of it, or people shouldn’t try to protest [against it], because we’re all different. And if we were all the same, this world would be pretty boring.”
Krista Threefoot also recognized that by reaching out to Michele, Ginsburg showed girls like her that they have the potential to change the world.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledging Michele, I feel like she wasn’t just acknowledging her, she was acknowledging all girls,” she said. “All parents think their kids are extraordinary, but Michele, she’s not that different from all of her friends ... all the girls that we know are powerful, they’re resilient, and they’re fighters.”
“Now we just have to work a lot harder,” Michele said. “Just because she’s gone, she can’t fight for us, doesn’t meant that we can’t fight for ourselves and fight for equality, and fight for what we think is right and fight against what we don’t think is right.”
With Ginsburg’s passing, Michele Threefoot has another idea for the nation: declaring Sept. 18 as Ruth Bader Ginsburg Day, for which people would get school and work off.