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Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace

by Carolyne Wright, M L Lyons, and Eugenia Toledo (Editors) - £14.99  Lost Horse Press (2015)
paperback    ISBN 13: 9780991146598 | ISBN 10: 099114659x

"This remarkable anthology, gathered in tribute to Lilly Ledbetter with a toast to Carolyn Kizer, gathers the lyric art of working women, writing from the depths of at least sixty-two occupations. These are the poems of the heavy-lifters, night-shifters, line and piece workers, writing with grace and often with humor: poets who punch clocks, woman the phones and decks, weave, weld and can, cotton-pick and cold call, thread-spin, typeset and teach. They sex-work, they ship-build, plaster and preach, butcher and drive the bus. This is anthology as page-turner, as fist in the air, as do-it-yourself manual against despair. Here, and in gratitude to Lily Ledbetter, is the music of a movement, and it is one of the best of our time."
(Carolyn Forché )
In January 2009, after President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, his first legislative act after taking office, poets Carolyne Wright and Eugenia Toledo began to think about the need to hear more from women about their workplace experiences — not just pay and promotion inequity, or workplace harassment and intimidation, but all matters relevant to women and work in an increasingly globalized world, including the ever-widening range of occupations in which women are engaged, and their joy and satisfaction of work well done.
 
Six years after the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, however, women’s pay has continued to average 77 cents for every dollar earned by men; pay for women of color has averaged even lower. Despite the activism of the Occupy Movement, more congressional legislation for women’s pay, and a rising minimum wage in many states, women’s overall pay continues to lag, even at the highest levels of elite careers!
 
Meanwhile, Wright and Toledo, along with co-editor M. L. Lyons, set out to edit an anthology of poetry about women in the workplace, knowing that it would be a daunting, yet important task. They hoped to bring together voices of women poets in the workspaces they occupy — much as Studs Terkel illuminated the lives of working people in his interviews, as Woody Guthrie celebrated in song, and as the iconic Mary Harris “Mother” Jones (at one time called “the most dangerous woman in America”) fought for in labor strikes, union organizing, and a seminal autobiography. Wright, Lyons and Toledo have brought together voices of women poets in the workspaces they occupy: from cotton rows to corner suites, trawlers to typing pools, nursing stations to space stations, factory floors to faculty offices. These voices bear witness to women’s workplace lives, and act to re-envision and refigure the world of work for women.

(Price & availability last checked: June 2015)

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In booklists: Women Poets, Poetry and Writing Anthologies, Women and Work,
In categories: Feminism & Women, Poetry & Writing, Work & Workers Rights,

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