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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 (email@example.com)
Barbara Castle in the film berates her two male assistants, calling them 'chauvinistic', but feminists did not routinely call men 'male chauvinist pigs' until after the publication of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch in 1970. See more »
[Albert is being accused by his union of scuppering other negotiations with management by supporting the women's equal-pay strike]
As a union we have to remember who comes first. The Communist Party. And Marx himself said "Men write their own history". That's "men", Albert.
But didn't he also say "Progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex"? Or was that a different Marx? That was Groucho, was it?
[Bartholomew is lost for words]
Equal pay across the board. You telling me ...
[...] See more »
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 »
Superbly written and performed, a true tale for our tough times
Made in Dagenham has brilliantly broken the mould. It combines the clear, explicit and nuanced politics of the best of Ken Loach with the heart-grabbing attractions of any mainstream popular film you care to name. The brilliant scene where Sally Hawkin's modest and unpractised union rep spells out why the job she does is skilled is a metaphor for the whole movie. Politics isn't hard to understand it's our lives, stupid! I cannot think of a previous British film with a mainstream aesthetic that has had the guts before to put the ordinary workers' point of view so wholeheartedly at its centre. But this is no simplistic idealised narrative. Going on strike, as the women find, makes you very unpopular, not least with the very people you'd thought would support you the Union leadership and your fellow (male) workers. Nothing is a cinch, nothing too easily won and Sally Hawkins brilliantly portrays the thorny predicament of the figurehead of the struggle beginning to doubt her own single-mindedness and how much it's costing not just her family but the entire town (and possibly the UK's) working community. Made in Dagenham shows a true story in a truthful, thoroughly engaging way. There is not one bum note in any of the performances from Kenneth Cranham's sleazily compromised Union official, to Rosamund Pike's surprisingly moving posh wife, to Jamie Winstone's wannabe model everybody has a committed credibility without ever being worthy or cloying and Sally Hawkins (with a startling look of the young Rita Tushingham) plays a richly layered blinder in the central role. Huge hats off to the writer Billy Ivory who has written a bright, funny, completely unpatronising and clever script. And a big, big thank you to producers Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen for the guts to get right inside the truth of this big, big story that started in a little place.
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