Equal rights activist launches Social Justice Week

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Women's equality activist Lilly Ledbetter spoke about helping create the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act when she came to campus last Wednesday. (Photo by NICHOLAS HALL, for The Muleskinner)
Women’s equality activist Lilly Ledbetter spoke about helping create the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act when she came to campus last Wednesday. (Photo by NICHOLAS HALL, for The Muleskinner)

Story by Andrea Lopez, for The Muleskinner—
Renowned women’s equality activist Lilly Ledbetter made an appearance on campus April 3 to launch the beginning of Politics and Social Justice Week at UCM.
Known for her diligent efforts that led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Ledbetter travels around the country to share her account of unequal rights in the workplace.
According to a Census Bureau report, Caucasian women earn 77 cents to every dollar men make.
These figures show an increase of 18 cents over the past 50 years.  But Ledbetter says that is not enough.
“This is not just a Lilly Ledbetter story, but it belongs to each one of you in this room,” Ledbetter said. “You’ve got a mother, a wife, a sister, a niece, or you may have a daughter that is expecting to earn a decent wage and supply for their family.”
Ledbetter started as an ordinary woman working to provide for her family.
Her journey has led her through rough patches, but the outcome has become anything but ordinary for the Alabama native.
She was working her dream job at the management level for the Goodyear tire factory, but it turned out to be no fairytale.
After 19 years of working with the company, Ledbetter received an anonymous note that stated she was earning thousands of dollars less than the men in her position.
“It’s not so much what happens to us, but how we react to it,” Ledbetter said. “What do we do about it? Do we accept it and let it go? No, we stand up for our self and for other people.”
Awestruck, Ledbetter decided to take action.  After filing a sex discrimination case against Goodyear, Ledbetter won, but then devastatingly lost on appeal.
Over a span of eight years, the case wound up in the Supreme Court, where it plummeted once again. Despite the lengthy process and lack of support, Ledbetter continued to fight back.
Her strong work ethic and determination finally paid off. On Jan. 29, 2009, history was made when President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first new law of his administration.
Ledbetter’s success landed her in the spotlight. From dancing with the president and being a guest on “The Colbert Report,” to her popularity Twitter, Ledbetter has many experiences she’s proud of, not to mention the recent release of her book, “Grace and Grit.”
After her presentation, Ledbetter offered an open time for anyone to ask her questions.
Psychology major Jacquie Weirich said she enjoyed the keynote speaker because it was something she could relate to. “I was surprised to learn that more men supported the bill than women,” Weirich said.
Ledbetter even got a personal handwritten note from Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, apologizing for not being able to attend the event. Ledbetter has and continues to inspire women and minorities to acquire their civil rights.
“It has been unreal to believe this could happen to a southern girl from Possum Trot, Ala. and a southern drawl,” Ledbetter said.
For more information regarding the event, please contact James Staab at [email protected]