In 1998, after Ledbetter had spent 19 grueling years working at a Goodyear plant, an anonymous note showed her that she made 40% less than her male counterparts. So began her decade-long legal battle for equal pay, a story she tells movingly and frankly with coauthor Isom. After a hardscrabble childhood in a small Alabama community, Ledbetter knew a job at the nearby Goodyear plant meant lifelong financial stability. In 1979 as a manager there, Ledbetter found men reluctant to take orders from a woman, and faced blatant sexual harassment (a performance review ended with a solicitation). Ledbetter tried to take it in stride, but the stress took a mental and physical toll. Goodyear continually transferred her between departments, citing poor performance, but failed to produce evidence when Ledbetter requested it. After discovering the anonymous note, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, leading to her landmark discrimination lawsuit under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act. While Ledbetter lost the case on appeal (a decision upheld by the Supreme Court), the experience prompted her to become a spokesperson for equal pay. In January 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, a satisfying coda to this inspiring tale. Agent: David Black Literary Agency. (Feb.)
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.
“Compelling...This story of a lifelong struggle for fairness deserves to be widely read not only as a document of a case so stunningly unjust that it sparked legislative change, but also as an introduction to a remarkable woman who also happens to be an outstanding storyteller .”
“Inspiring….Frank and feisty.”
“A riveting and inspiring story of a true American hero from Possum Trot, Alabama, who in her own compelling voice tells the story of how she broke down barriers throughout her life, and in the process gave all women in this country the right to get equal pay. A must read.”
—Marcia Greenberger, Co-President, National Women’s Law Center