The Grace and Grit of Lilly LedbetterApril 16, 2012
When Lilly Ledbetter sat next to me at the AAUW National Convention last June, I almost burst into tears. Somehow I managed to hold it together, reattach the lower portion of my jaw, and lean over to awkwardly whisper, “It’s an honor to sit next to you.”
“Oh, aren’t you sweet?” Ledbetter responded, reaching over to pat my knee and sliding a little closer to me as we both turned back to watch the speaker. After a minute, she leaned over again. “I can’t see from here, so I’m just going to sit over there,” she said, motioning to the chair two seats from me. I nodded dumbly and smiled again and spent the rest of the presentation trying not to stare at her too much.
That’s a long way of saying that I’m a big fan of hers. So when the chance to review Ledbetter’s new autobiography, Grace and Grit, became available, I jumped on it. It’s not every day that you get to meet your feminist heroes, and I wanted to be better prepared in case I ever got the opportunity again.
As I wrote in the most recent issue of AAUW Outlook, reading Grace and Grit showed me a whole new side to a story I thought I knew. For the first time, Lilly opened up about the rampant and disgusting sexual harassment she experienced at Goodyear, on top of the blatant and prolonged pay discrimination. The story is gripping — I found myself sneaking away from beach time with my friends to find out what happened to Ledbetter next, even though I knew how the story ends!
In Grace and Grit, Ledbetter talks about growing up in rural Alabama and how she wasn’t allowed to go to college because she was a girl. Eventually, she went to work to help support her family, and while that decision ultimately led her to where she is today, it cost her years of mistreatment at the hands of Goodyear and strained relationships with her mother, husband, and children.
Last month, AAUW and the Sewall-Belmont House hosted Ledbetter at the first D.C.-area discussion and signing of Grace and Grit, and she was generous enough to sign a copy for us to give away. I’m positive that anyone who cares enough about social justice to read this blog will enjoy this book, especially a free, autographed copy. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below telling us why fair pay is an important issue for the 2012 election.
If you’re not lucky enough to win a copy, you can purchase the book at your local bookstore or on Amazon. Buy it. Read it. That way, if you ever get the chance to meet her, you’ll have plenty to talk about.