In 1963, She Pushed John F. Kennedy To Sign The Equal Pay Act, Paving The Way For More Accessible Opportunities And Success For American Women

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual people

It’s no secret that America still has a long way to go to give women equal opportunities as men.

However, so many women in history have fought their hardest to make success and opportunities more accessible to women in America.

One of those was Esther Peterson, the woman who pushed John F. Kennedy to sign the Equal Pay Act in 1963.

Esther was born in Utah in 1906 and grew up in a Mormon family. She attended Brigham Young University and graduated in 1927 with a degree in physical education. Then, she moved to New York City to get her master’s at the teaching college of Columbia University in 1930.

After marrying her husband, Oliver Peterson, the couple moved to Boston, where she worked as a teacher and volunteered at her local Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). While working in Boston, Esther learned more about the brutality of racial and gender discrimination.

For instance, Black women were not permitted at her YWCA, but she called them out, especially because they boasted about equality and justice. As the years progressed, Esther became passionate about equal treatment and opportunities for women, particularly mothers and teachers.

Esther joined the American Federation of Teachers in 1938 and became a mother that same year. The next year, she joined the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union and helped establish the National Labor Relations Board. In 1944, Esther became the National Labor Relations Board’s first lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Esther and her family eventually relocated to Washington, D.C., where she started passionately lobbying for a raise in minimum wage. She met John F. Kennedy in the 1940s, and when he was elected president, he made her Assistant Secretary of Labor and Director of the United States Women’s Bureau.

Esther was known for hosting hearings to listen to the stories of working women around America, talking to them about their wages, responsibilities, lifestyles, and challenges. She pushed for the Kennedy administration to do more research on women’s lack of equality in America, especially when it came to wages for minority women who faced both racial and gender discrimination.

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual people

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