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Dr. Sue Byrd enlightens students on women's rights

By Lori Winters
On November 5, 2012

Women's status in Tennessee was the topic of the Brown Bag Session on November 2, 2012, in Paul Meek Library.

Dr. Sue Byrd, professor of Fashion Merchandising, led the discussion on new information she learned at a recent seminar.

Byrd educated the audience on women in the United States gaining the right to vote in 1919 thanks to Tennessee. The final voter, a man from Tennessee, was against women's rights until his mother swayed him. 

Even with the passing of the law for women's rights, women are still not equal to men in the business world.

In a recent study conducted by the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, for every dollar a male earns a female will only earn 77 cents. 

In Weakley County, men make approximately $10,000 more than women do.

In 1963, congress passed a bill called the Equal Pay Act.  It made it a requirement for men and women to receive equal pay for equal work in an establishment.  However, to this day, this law is not sufficiently enforced.

That led to the case of the Lilly Ledbetter Act concerning employment discrimination. 

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor in Gadsden, Ala., at the Goodyear plant.  After 10 years at the plant, a colleague informed Ledbetter she was not making equal pay to her counterparts.  The case made its way all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme denied Ledbetter's claim.  The reasoning was that sufficient evidence did not exist for the claim of discrimination. 

Byrd recently had the chance to meet Ledbetter.  Ledbetter autographed her book "Grace to Grits". 

"Her story is so compelling," says Byrd of Ledbetter.

During the session, Byrd presented Dr. Teresa Collard, Director of the UTM Women's Center, with the book. 

To close the discussion, Byrd spoke about domestic violence and the effect on women. 

According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, Tennessee is third on the list of women killed due to domestic violence.  The first state is Nevada, with Alabama being second.

The same study tells us that domestic violence will happen to one in four women over their lifetime.

So why does domestic violence continue to plague the United States?  Discussion participants came up with a few ideas.

Some ideas were women trying to protect children in the home, no family to turn to and psychological damage.

To help this cause, citizens can register to vote and put people in offices to make changes, and to stand up for women's rights.

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