Justice Ginsburg’s death could inflame partisan polarization amid a tense presidential campaign season.
But in a show of togetherness on Friday night as the news began to spread in Washington, some people gravitated to the steps of the Supreme Court building. The gathering became a crowd, and a vigil. Some people carried candles, and some shed tears.
Across the United States, people have participated in an outpouring of grief for the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights.
“Ruthie was my friend and I will miss her terribly,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts and a former presidential candidate, said on Twitter.
“As a young mom heading off to Rutgers law school, I saw so few examples of female lawyers or law professors,” she added. “But Ruthie blazed the trail. I’m forever grateful for her example — to me, and to millions of young women who saw her as a role model.”
The chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., said in a statement released by the court: “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature. We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her — a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the loss was “devastating.”
“Every family in America benefited from her brilliant legacy and courage,” she added in a statement. “Her opinions have unequivocally cemented the precedent that all men and women are created equal.”
In recent years, as the court has tilted to the right, Justice Ginsburg became the senior member and de facto leader of a four-justice liberal bloc, drawing attention with her powerful and pointed dissenting opinions. A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice.
“Gutted,” Ms. Knizhnik tweeted on Friday. “Thank you for everything, R.B.G. May your memory be a blessing.”
Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be a major-party candidate for president, said that “Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women, including me.”
“There will never be another like her,” she added.
Many tributes to Justice Ginsburg looked to the future. “Now is not the time for cynicism or hopelessness,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, said on Twitter. “There is and continues to be political possibility to preserve our democracy & move forward.”