Lilly Ledbetter signing her book
Lilly Ledbetter signing her book
Lilly Ledbetter

Lilly Ledbetter, whose efforts to establish equal pay for men and women resulted in President Barack Obama’s first piece of legislation — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — spoke before a packed audience at Daemen College April 22, 2013. Ledbetter told the audience “We still have a long way to go in the battle for equal pay, for men and women, for a good day’s work.”

After becoming one of the first women hired at the management level at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Factory in Gadsden, Alabama in 1979, 19 years into her job she found out she was making thousands of dollars less than her male counterparts.

She filed a sex discrimination case challenging Goodyear, which she won — then lost on appeal. Her case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she lost again. But in a dramatic moment as the Court rendered its verdict, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent, urging Ledbetter to fight back.

Grace and Grit Book CoverThe result was a law amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act, so that unfair pay complaints could be filed within 180 days of a discriminatory act. In January, 2009, the bill was signed into law by newly-elected President Obama.