Lilly Ledbetter

Photo: AP

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Lilly Ledbetter (1938–present)
Lilly Ledbetter was getting ready to retire as a supervisor in a Goodyear plant in Alabama when she received an anonymous letter telling her that she was being paid just 71 percent of what the other men who held the same job were making. Goodyear initially offered her $10,000 to settle out of court, but she took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Because federal law required complaints to be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory paycheck, she lost. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was so angry about the decision that she read her dissent from the bench and urged lawmakers to take action. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an amendment to the Civil Rights act called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Ledbetter said: "I had no idea this was such a national problem. I've heard it from physicians, teachers, nurses—every job you can imagine."

"Women today are used to getting together to encourage each other, but the ones in our history who just knock me out are the women who took a stand even when no one thought it was a good idea—not their friends or their fellow workers or their neighbors," Collins says. "Lilly Ledbetter is in that tradition, like so many of the people made history, by demanding that their employers respect their equal rights. She was a simple working-class woman from the South who was used to the idea that women had to work and determined that she'd get a fair shake."

The woman who sparked the "second wave of feminism"


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