Lilly Ledbetter at DNC via Washington, Possum Trot


Lily Ledbetter speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Captiol June 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.


Chip Somodevilla

You know that anyone born in Possum Trot, Alabama during the Great Depression would grow up in hardship and never shy from a fight.

Lilly Ledbetter is a prime example.

Ledbetter, 74, is one of many high-profile women scheduled to speak at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Her battle with her former employer, Goodyear Tire, formed the backbone of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It was the first bill President Barack Obama signed into law after taking office in 2009.

Standing at the president’s side as he signed was certainly a far cry from Possum Trot, where Ledbetter was born into a home with no running water and no electricity.

The mother of two persevered, however, eventually becoming one of the first female supervisors Goodyear ever hired.

Ledbetter worked 19 years at the company’s Gadsden, Alabama factory when she received an anonymous note saying she was paid hundreds less per week than her male counterparts.

She sued, initially winning a $3 million settlement, only to watch the Supreme Court overturn the ruling.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices said Ledbetter had needed to file her lawsuit within six months of receiving her first paycheck.

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The new law, among other things, addressed that, stating that a plaintiff can file suit within 180 days of receiving any paycheck, not just the first.

While she can’t benefit from the Fair Pay Act, Ledbetter's plight and subsequent court case drew national attention to the inequity that remains in corporate America.

It also led to her new book, “Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond,” published by Random House earlier this year.

Her presence in Charlotte — alongside big names such as Eva Longoria and Sandra Fluke — is a return engagement. Ledbetter also spoke at the 2008 convention in Denver.

Her 2012 DNC speech will help voters “put a face on the continuing problem of pay discrimination,” said Emily Martin, vice-president of the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, to the Akron Beacon Journal.

“It helps people understand that there is still work to be done to make sure women aren’t shortchanged in the workplace,” Martin told the Journal.

On her website, Ledbetter said she isn’t focused on receiving money from Goodyear anymore: “I’ll be happy if the last thing they say about me after I die is that I made a difference.”

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