Grace and Grit by Lilly Ledbetter
The Courageous Story of the Woman at the Center of the Historic Discrimination Case That Inspired the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act
“All I’d ever dreamed of as a young girl was escaping the hot, dusty cotton fields, leaving behind the long sack dragging around my neck that I could never fill. But those endless rows of cotton that pricked my hands until they bled were my saving grace on the journey I began that spring day so long ago. My transformation from an unknown tire manager facing an all-too-common injustice to a woman people now recognize as ‘the grandmother of equal pay’ took every ounce of grit I’d gained picking cotton on my grandfather’s farm in Possum Trot, Alabama.”
–from Grace and Grit
“A story she tells movingly and frankly . . . [an] inspiring tale.”
“Ledbetter’s story is inspiring . . . Frank and feisty.”
Lilly Ledbetter was born in the small town of Possum Trot, Alabama, into a home without running water and electricity. But from these humble beginnings she became a national hero and the namesake of President Obama’s Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act in 2009. Lilly’s decade-long court battle for equal pay is only part of her courageous story, which she tells for the first time in GRACE AND GRIT: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond (on sale February 28), written with Lanier Scott Isom.
Married at seventeen, Lilly soon had two children. Depressed about the poverty her family was living in, and the death of her dreams of a bigger life, she went against her husband’s wishes and got a job. When, after years of hard work and ambition, Lilly was hired for her dream job—a management position at the Goodyear Tire factory in Gadsden, Alabama—it was heady stuff. As a child, Lilly had been extremely jealous of a classmate whose father worked at Goodyear, because she had all the things—new clothes, vacations, a big house—that Lilly did not. Little did she know her dream would turn into a daily nightmare of sexual harassment. Fondled on the factory floor, propositioned in evaluation meetings, transferred between departments when she complained, Lilly was disheartened but soldiered on, willing to deal with the daily indignities in order to provide for her family. She did so until the day in 1998 when an anonymous note revealed that after devoting 19 years to Goodyear, Lilly was earning thousands of dollars per year less than men in her position.
Angry, insulted, and hurt, Lilly took action. She brought a sexual discrimination suit against the company and won, only to heartbreakingly lose on appeal. Eight years later her case was heard before the Supreme Court, where, in a 5–4 vote, she lost on a technicality. Realizing the issue was bigger than she was, Lilly continued acting as a tireless advocate for equal pay, right up to the day she stood behind President Obama and watched him sign her namesake legislation.
With unflinching honesty, GRACE AND GRIT traces Lilly’s life through its most tumultuous and heartbreaking moments. In an interview, Lilly can discuss:
–The humiliating harassment she suffered at Goodyear and how her formal complaints fell on deaf ears
–How her job and court battle tested her relationship with her family
–Why, for nearly twenty years, she put up with the rough treatment she received at Goodyear
–Why she and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg believe the Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t make sense in the real world
–How her case came to then-Senator Obama’s attention
–What the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act means in practice, and how much money she received from Goodyear as a result of it
–Her continuing work to urge women and minorities to claim their civil rights
Lilly does not gloss over the dark moments of her life and the sacrifices she made in pursuit of workplace equality for herself and so many others. GRACE AND GRIT is a testament to the difficulty of her journey and the phenomenal achievement of an impassioned woman who was put at the helm of a civil rights issue larger than herself.