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 »
From the director NIGEL COLE (Calendar Girls, Saving Grace), MADE IN DAGENHAM tells the tale of the 187 women that worked at the Ford Motor companies Dagenham factory - and their struggle to earn equal rights and pay with the 55,000 male workers at the factory.
Set in 1968, the economy was used to frequent union uprisings and strikes – but this was the first time that it was the women upholsterers who sewed car seat covers that took the initiative after being "down-graded" to a non-skilled status – the women rose as one to walk out, in an action that brought them into direct conflict with the management, their own unions and their own husbands eventually brought the Ford motor company to it's knees
Many laughed at the women's actions until their strength of feeling and reality set in forcing the unions and the management to take increasingly desperate measures to get the women back to work as factory production ground to a halt.
Rita O'Grady (played admirably by SALLY HAWKINS), a shy, pleasant worker working in sweat shop conditions, found her voice when asked to stand up for the women's views, and gradually became more and more empowered as the rest of the women stood behind her in a crusade that became synonymous with equal rights
The story climax's nicely in an emotional showdown, as the situation finally comes to a head and the chief participants (Ford, the Government, the Women, the unions and the men workers) all realise that things have gone too far and none of them can back down.
As well as Sally Hawkins, there are some strong performances by other members of the cast – specifically, Bob Hoskins as Albert, Miranda Richardson as an exuberant Barbra Castle, the lovely Rosamund Pike as Lisa, Geraldine James as Connie, Kenneth Cranham as Monty (Unions) and Richard Schiff as Robert Tooley (Ford).
The music, costumes and the locations set up the tone of the times nicely, and the direction is solid throughout. The camera work is able, and is interspersed with footage from the actual era giving it more gravitas.
In a phrase, it's "Girl Power – union style"
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