Former Goodyear floor manager turned equal-rights activist Ledbetter knew from childhood that she “was going somewhere special.”
However, the Alabama native never dreamed that she would one day spearhead the fight for equal pay for working women. Ledbetter grew up in the Southern backwater town of Possum Trot at a time when women were expected to do little more than find a husband and have children. After marrying at 17, she became a depressed, dissatisfied stay-at-home mother of two. Against her traditionalist husband’s wishes, she took a minimum-wage part-time job, which quickly turned into a full-time office-management position. Still, her success on the job was always tinged with working woman’s guilt: “someone or something was not always tended to properly” at home. At 41, Ledbetter decided to become a supervisor at a local Goodyear plant to help ensure her family’s security. A few of her mostly male colleagues supported her, but she often felt as though she was “a missionary in a strange land, trying to convert [the natives] to a new religion.” The author struggled against hostility, harassment and endless humiliation for almost 20 years only to discover that her male counterparts were making thousands of dollars more per year than she was. For 10 years after that, she pursued bitter anti-discrimination court battles that yielded nothing financially but eventually brought into existence the fair-pay legislation that bears her name. Ledbetter’s story is inspiring, but some readers may wonder why she persisted in a job that, for all its apparent prestige, proved so physically and emotionally damaging to her.
Frank and feisty.