Nina Totenberg's early life, NPR legacy and friendship with the Notorious RBG

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In this special two-part episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles speaks with Lisa Napoli, author of Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR, and we hear from Nina Totenberg herself about her new book, Dinners With Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships. Totenberg appeared at an American Bar Foundation event to celebrate the launch of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Endowed Fund for Research in Civil Rights & Gender Equality.

The history of National Public Radio, the outlet that made Nina Totenberg a household name, is shorter than many people imagine. Its first broadcast hit the airwaves in 1971. Napoli shares how NPR helped craft the careers of women like Susan Stamberg, Linda Linda Wertheimer, Cokie Roberts and Totenberg, but also how these women helped shape the network and national conversations. Totenberg changed the way the Supreme Court was reported on, says Napoli, and she discusses defining moments of Totenberg’s career.

The second half of the episode is made of highlights from Totenberg’s conversation with E. Thomas Sullivan, the president of the ABF, in front of a Washington, D.C., audience that included former Ginsburg clerks. Totenberg spoke about her book, her friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and what the justice really thought about the Notorious RBG meme. She reflects on Justice Ginsburg’s relationship with Sandra Day O’Connor; the current “grey” makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court; and why Ginsburg chose not to retire in 2013.

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