In 1968, the Ford auto factory in Dagenham was one of the largest single private employers in the United Kingdom. In addition to the thousands of male employees, there are also 187 underpaid women machinists who primarily assemble the car seat upholstery in poor working conditions. Dissatisfied, the women, represented by the shop steward and Rita O'Grady, work with union rep Albert Passingham for a better deal. However, Rita learns that there is a larger issue in this dispute considering that women are paid an appalling fraction of the men's wages for the same work across the board on the sole basis of their sex. Refusing to tolerate this inequality any longer, O'Grady leads a strike by her fellow machinists for equal pay for equal work. What follows would test the patience of all involved in a grinding labour and political struggle that ultimately would advance the cause of women's rights around the world.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Three of the original Dagenham seamstresses invited Sally Hawkins for tea, prior to the filming, as they wished to inform her properly about mindset behind the strike, that she was set to portray in the film. Hawkins' grandmother also worked as a seamstress, although not at the Dagenham factory. See more »
When Connie and Rita O'Grady return to their co-workers from their first meeting, Rita hands her handbag to Connie to hold while she climbs on a table, gets everyone's attention, then announces loudly, "Everyone out!" She climbs down and shakes hands with co-workers without her handbag (Connie is holding it), then suddenly she has her handbag looped on her shoulder, then it's gone and Connie is holding it again, and we never see Connie hand the handbag back to Rita. See more »
[Rita gives an impromptu speech at the trade union conference]
My best friend lost her husband recently. He was a gunner in the 50 Squadron in the RAF. Got shot down one time, on a raid to Essen. And even though he was badly injured, he managed to bail out. I asked him why he joined the RAF, and he said "Well, they've got the best women, haven't they?"
And then he said "Well, you've got to do something, haven't you? You had to do something, that was a given. Cos it was a matter ...
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Captions in the closing credits: "Two years later in May 1970 the Equal Pay Act became law. Similar legislation quickly followed in most industrial countries across the world. Ford Motor Company Limited went on to effect changes in its employment practices and is now used as an example of a good practice employer." See more »
BBC Radio 1 Jingle
Written and Performed by PAMS
Courtesy of Jonathan Wolfert
Under license from JAM Creative Productions, Inc See more »
Gutsiness and heart
After a summer of endless animations and shlock-horror here - at last! - is a film with real heart.
Sally Hawkins is a revelation as Rita who becomes the striking machinists' spokeswoman; her speeches to co-workers, union chiefs, management and the press all start out tremulous and gain in confidence as she hits her stride. Geraldine James who usually plays upper-class ladies (I'm still trying to forgive and forget her breast-feeding David Walliams in Little Britain!) here plays a kind of 'upper-working-class' woman with a husband still shell-shocked from WW2. John Sessions does a Spitting Image turn as Harold Wilson, and Miranda Richardson morphs her Blackadder Elizabeth I into a fiery Barbara Castle (dressed by C&A).
In my Gap Year (date withheld) I worked in a Sussex factory that had a sewing-room. The movie gets the atmosphere exactly right but I don't think working women were quite as free with the f-word back then as they are in this script. The end credits run against pictures of the original Dagenham strikers who all look like clones of Corrie's Ena Sharples and Florrie Linley. Some of the film machinists are more Carnaby Street than Coronation Street, but that's OK. These girls make you laugh, they occasionally bring a lump to your throat, but most of all they make you want to cheer.
A small slice of 1960s history, this film packs a big punch. Do not miss it.
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