Made in Dagenham

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Year: 2010

Type: Film (113 minutes)

Director: Nigel Cole

Producers: Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen

Production Company: HanWay Films and Lipsync Productions

Availability: on DVD from (new from £5.99; used from £4.77) and (new from $12.38; used from $6.31), and online trailer available on Youtube.

Page Reference: Brown, S., Brunswick, I., Nientiedt, J., Wheeler, A., Windham, C. & Woolford, B. (2010) Made in Dagenham. ( last accessed <insert date here>)

Classroom tested: click for details

Lego re-creation

Made in Dagenham: 'We want sex (equality)'

Ms. Sime travelled to the streets outside the British Parliament on 28 June 1968 where employees brandished a famous banner. It read: 'We want sex'. 'Oh, we had some jokes with some men with that [banner],' recalls Ms. Sime (now 83), at her home in Rainham, Essex. She is interrupted by her friend and former colleague Gwen Davis (80). 'Well, you hadn’t unfurled the banner properly had you?' she says. The full banner read: 'We want sex equality.' (Source: Goodley 2013, np link).


It was the hot summer of 1968 - and in the upholstery room at Dagenham tempers were rising. The women sewing machinists, stitching seat covers for Ford's flash Zephyrs and Consuls, had discovered their £18-a-week wage was way below the minimum that any of the plant's 55,000 men was earning. It was even 15 per cent less than the men working alongside them doing exactly the same job. They were furious. Not just because their pay was lower, but because of the horrendous conditions they had to endure. Their workshed was a converted aircraft hangar with a corrugated roof. Rain and gales blew in during winter and it was stiflingly hot in summer. There was always the risk of a dead pigeon dropping on the table. And the work itself was tough. The sewing machines were industrial-size and difficult to control - and today the women nearly all have arthritis in their hands (Source: Ellam & Lee-Potter 2010, p.32).

Made in Dagenham is based on a true story, about an apolitical group of 187 women workers at Ford`s Dagenham plant who in 1968 went on strike for their work as sewing machinists to be graded as ‘skilled‘ (Source: Gritten 2010 np link).

Picking up the yarn at the very dawn of the labour battle, [director Nigel] Cole shows a group of women sewing car-seat upholstery. They chatter, they joke, they work extremely hard, but there's something missing in their daily lives, and it's the simple respect they deserve for doing their jobs well. A young mother decides it's time for a change. And just by articulating her desire for better working conditions and remuneration, she becomes an accidental activist (Source: Monk 2010 p.D3).

In 1967, Ford motor factory in Dagenham employed 55,000 workers - 187 of them women. It's these women, led by the ever-excellent Sally Hawkins, who become the miniskirted trouble makers as, stirred up by their lovable old union rep (Bob Hoskins does his cuddly Bob Hoskins thing) they go on strike demanding equal pay (Source: Anon 2011a p.26).

... the dispute starts over grading but only becomes about equal pay when the women find out that the reason they are wrongly graded as ‘unskilled’ is because they are women (Source: Prasad 2010 np link).

Based, but not slavishly, on a true story, this amenable Brit flick by the director of Calendar Girls follows the female machinists at the Ford car plant in the East London suburb of Dagenham, whose strike action - then almost unheard of among women - leads to the introduction of the Equal Pay Act 1970. Led by the idealistic Rita (Sally Hawkins), the group must contend with two brands of machismo: the besuited arrogance of the Ford bosses and the superficially sympathetic, but often just as chauvinistic, attitudes of the trade union reps (Source: Potton 2011 p.13).

I will take this opportunity to reveal a sigh of relief that movies like this are still being made. Despite its awkward title (I’m assuming there is a point to it), this one goes right to the top of the pile for me. ... Set against the backdrop of the 1960s, Made in Dagenham is based on a true story about a group of spirited women who joined forces, took a stand for what was right, and in doing so, found their own inner strength. Although far from the Swinging Sixties of Carnaby Street, life for the women of Dagenham, England is tinged with the sounds and sights of the optimistic era, heard on their radios and seen on their TV sets.  Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) reflects that upbeat era, along with her friends and co-workers at the city’s Ford Motor Factory - Sandra (Jamie Winstone), Eileen (Nicola Duffett), Brenda (Andrea Riseborough), Monica (Lorraine Stanley) and Connie (Geraldine James) - who laugh in the face of their poor conditions. Lisa (Rosamund Pike) is a fiercely intelligent Cambridge-educated woman who feels a bit trapped, tending to the home with a husband that suggests she keep her opinions to herself. She may not live in the same world as the other women, but she shares their views. No one thought the revolution would come to Dagenham, until one day, it did. Rita, who primarily sees herself as a wife and mother, is coerced into attending a meeting with shop steward Connie, sympathetic union representative Albert (Bob Hoskins) and Peter Hopkins (Rupert Graves), Ford’s Head of Industrial Relations. What she expects to be simply a day out of work, complete with a free lunch, turns into much more when she and her colleagues become outraged by the lack of respect shown in the meeting to the women employees. With humor, common sense and courage Rita and the other women take on their bosses, an increasingly belligerent local community, and finally the government, as their intelligence and unpredictability proves to be a match for any of their male opponents.  Daring to stand up and push boundaries, the women changed a system that no one wanted to admit was broken (Source: Stone 2010, np).

[Made in Dagenham] follows the women as they brought car production at the bedrock of UK car manufacture to a halt, prompted the lay-off of thousands of workers and was only solved with the intervention of then secretary of state, Barbara Castle (Source: Heald & McClatchey 2010 np link).

What captivated me is how sublime Hawkins’ performance is and how beautifully director Nigel Cole captures the small details of how not just the Ford executives but also the union chiefs, wanted to do the women down. Kenneth Cranham is good as a union big shot, but it s Bob Hoskins who becomes the women s union ally and who is able to articulate best how women deserve the same in their wage packet as men. The movie explores class as much as it does gender and social issues, and Cole is blessed with one of the most astutely observed performances from Hawkins (Source: Bamigboye 2010, np).

Hawkins, in a luminescent performance, plays [Rita] as feisty but also afraid of the speed with which she is breaking through barriers that have previously constrained her. Having grown up in a world where authority and the status quo were accepted unquestioningly, she finds herself not only speaking to her industry bosses as though they were equals, but also - and this appears to shock her more - leaving her husband and children to fend for themselves while she is out pursuing equal pay (Source: Allott 2010, np).

For the men in Dagenham in 1968 this sense that their role in the family was threatened was exacerbated by the fact that within days the women's strike had closed the factory, putting entire families out of work and bringing them to the breadline. Ivory wrote several scenes in which Rita has to deal with being the personal focus for the anger this engenders, but Eddie [Rita’s husband] bears the brunt of it, too. ... at the Mildmay Club - which was also serving as a pub in Dagenham - I observed the filming of a three-minute scene in which Eddie and a mate who had also been laid off watch Rita on the television news. Pride at his wife's achievement ('You gotta smart woman there, Eddie'), humiliation at having to leave the pub early to collect his children from school and dismay at being attacked by an older man who 'can't afford this bastard strike' chase across [his] face in quick succession (Source: Allott 2010, np).

Karen Durbin, the film critic for the US edition of Elle, has predicted that American women will love the film. ‘Nigel Cole [the director] has pulled off something we seldom do well in the States, a political movie that's touching and a lot of fun but doesn't sugar-coat the facts,’ she wrote in a recent feature. ‘The whole cast is good, but for me the standouts are Sally Hawkins's lovely, low-key turn as the impromptu leader of the walk-out and Miranda Richardson's wily, hard-ass Barbara Castle’ (Source: Thorpe 2010, p.3 link).

Inspiration / Process / Technique / Methodology

At a recent London Feminist Network screening of the film, the film’s producers Wooley and Karlsen claim that the original idea for the film was first developed over four years ago. However, they explain that the film was unsuccessful in gaining funding at this time because there appeared to be very little interest in feminism or on issues relating to equal pay (Source: Allan 2010 np link).

[Producer Stephen Woolley] …says the idea for the film came about when he was driving home from work, turned on the radio and found himself in the company of the 1968 Ford Dagenham women strikers. He listened in fits of laughter as the ladies recounted the tale of their accidental stumble into the world of politics and feminism (Source: Moss 2010 np link).

The film was inspired by an edition of the Radio 4 programme The Reunion [link] that brought the machinists back together after 40 years. ‘I was fascinated by their story, and what struck me in particular was how innocent and unpoliticised they were,’ said Woolley. ‘All they wanted was a fair deal. It was common sense rather than any kind of axe to grind’ (Source: Thorpe 2010, p.3 link).

The voices of these women on the radio were so colourful and full of humour. I couldn’t get out of the car because of these voices. They reminded me of my working-class aunts in north London, who helped bring me up. But also, this was a story I knew nothing about (Source: Woolley in Lawrence 2010 np link).

Stephen Woolley… was struck by the vivacity of the voices of the women and their infectious sense of humour about the struggle they had fought. Their wit and candour reminded him of the older women in his own family and he was inspired to take the project to producing partner Elizabeth the co-founder of Number 9 Films … [Producer] Nigel [Cole], like Stephen and Elizabeth, wanted to celebrate the irreverence and excitement of these women.  All three felt it was time their story was celebrated (Source: Breen 2010 np link).

We went to the people who put the radio documentary out and, by paying them a little bit of money, we got their contacts and went to the real women that were around that wanted to speak to us and we started to speak to them about the stories and went a little bit deeper into the whole history of it and then began to fashion a script (Source: Wooley nd np link).

Having heard The Reunion, Woolley approached the screenwriter William Ivory, whose 2005 television drama Faith told the story of two sisters (more strong women) caught up in the miners' strike of 1984. Ivory had heard [The Reunion] programme, too, and spotted the story's potential. Together they went to Essex, where some of the erstwhile machinists are still living and in regular touch with one another. 'That was about five years ago and they were most of them in their seventies,' Ivory says. 'There is something about age which seems to accelerate the extent to which you can make connections and we got on really well.' There were stories of 'Effing Eileen', who kept dogs, ducks and monkeys and swore so much she wasn't allowed to join the delegation that met Barbara Castle; 'Ginger Lil', who organised the women on to coaches to protest, and Rose Boland, a key figure in the machinists' strike, remembered by her peers as 'a right cow'. Both men returned from that visit adamant that they did not want to make an agit-prop film. 'Rita wasn't politicised,' Woolley says, slipping between real and fictional characters. 'In her own mind she wasn't standing shoulder to shoulder with the students in Paris or the revolutionaries in Prague. She was simply doing something to right a wrong (Source: Allott 2010, np).

...director, Nigel Cole... was attracted to the project as soon as Woolley approached him. 'When I got the script it felt timely: the news headlines were full of the banking crisis and the credit crunch and it felt like we were going back to a period of industrial unrest and having to fight for our rights,' he says (Source: Allott 2010, np).

[In Dagenham] the 'heap of jerry cans' that formed the factory was long gone, as was the brick building that replaced it, so Made in Dagenham's factory scenes were shot at the Hoover factory in Merthyr Tydfil. This had been shut down a couple of months before filming took place in June 2009, and in a poignant twist some of the women who had worked there got parts as extras, travelling to London for the first time in their lives to take part in the scenes outside Parliament. 'They were wonderful women, I made friends with one called Carol who had never been outside Merthyr Tydfil before,' says Jaime Winstone, who plays Sandra, a young machinist with aspirations to better herself and become a model (Source: Allott 2010, np).

Eileen Pullan and her friends, Vera Sime, 80, and Gwen Davis, 77 (17 years apiece in the Dagenham factory), had seen Made in Dagenham when I met them and declared themselves shocked by the swearing in the film and the fact that the machinists were shown rolling their overalls down to the waist and facing the factory's heat in their passion-baffling underwear. 'That would never have been allowed,' they giggled. What the film did get right, they agreed, was the tyranny of the sewing-machines, which left them all with the arthritis-ridden hands they ruefully hold out to me. Hawkins and the rest of the female cast were taken to the London Sewing Machine Museum in south London to see authentic versions of the machines that were used. 'They were quite terrifying beasts for one woman to control,' says Andrea Riseborough, who plays Brenda, a ribald character firmly based on 'Effing Eileen'. 'My grandmother worked in a factory,' she says. 'And she often used to mouth things without actually saying them. She'd got used to making herself understood through the noise with exaggerated lip movements and lots of hand gestures.' The dire conditions in the factory were also praised by the original machinists as being authentic. 'When it rained it flooded and in summer we had to have salt tablets and lime juice it got so hot in there,' Sime says. 'It wasn't a brick building, it was made of something like asbestos,' Pullan puts in. 'It was just a heap of jerry cans. You couldn't look up in case a bird did something in your eye. Sometimes they'd get caught in the wires in the roof and they'd hang there for months,' Sime says. The domestic scenes were also authentic, shot as they were on the Mardyke Estate, which housed many Ford workers. Its scheduled demolition was off until filming had taken place (Source: Allott 2010, np).

They wanted to be seen as irreverent, ordinary, funny women. They didn’t want to be seen as politicians or as people burning with a cause. They just had a beef. They were irritated and mad as hell. … it was a very vital and powerful experience that energised them. So, we wanted to capture that, and they felt like we had, and they felt that even though we compressed the story and in some ways simplified the story, they felt like we told it in a way that they recognised and thought was truthful. So, there were extensive interviews and other interviews by other people from the past that we drew on. … I think we were very keen that Rita, Sally Hawkins’ character, represented the two or three characters that we drew her from, but also represented all the women. She does that in the way that she’s a worker, a mum, and a wife … and those were the things that came first. She becomes a politician because she has to, not because she wants to. And there’s no vanity about it, no sense of building a power base, or drawing attention to herself …  we wanted the main character to sum up the spirit of all the women (Source: Cole in Carnevale nd np link).

[Woolley] believes that Hawkins's ‘meticulous’ portrayal of her character is a fitting tribute to the original strikers. ‘Sally is lovely and sweet in the role and yet uncompromising. Not at all shrill. She is strong and yet it is a gossamer performance. We had to find an actor who could incorporate three or four of the real life characters and we did it’ (Source: Thorpe 2010, p.3 link).

[Dagenham workers] Dora Challingsworth and Sheila Douglass spoke ... about their experiences during the strikes: Dora: It’s good that they do mention that the women came out originally for recognition of their skill. People keep saying they came out for equal pay, which isn’t what they came out for. Sheila: The film was a fair imitation. You have to give it a bit of poetic licence to make it interesting, like when they ripped their tops off, the ladies, because it’s a sweatshop. But that never happened! (Source: McGregor & Sagall 2010 np link).

Woolley showed the film to some of the original women involved in the strike earlier this month. ‘They loved it,’ he said, ‘and particularly the way we made it clear that they went on strike because they were being paid as unskilled workers’ (Source: Thorpe 2010, p.3 link).

The director ... says his film is an official thank you to a group of ordinary Essex women who changed the world of work forever (Source: Anon 2010a np link).

Cole says one of his aims was to highlight the political moment when the Harold Wilson-led Labour Party was being strongarmed by the American company Ford. In that instance, Cole observes, the Labour government needed to get people back into work and push Britain out of an economic slump, while at the same time protecting workers (Source: Bodey 2010 np link).

Discussion / Responses

I saw the film last week and while I was a little disappointed that certain aspects of the women’s fight for equality were watered down and the characters were glamorized unnecessarily, it was undoubtedly refreshing to see this issue being explored in mainstream cinema (Source: Kim 2010 np link).

It’s a film about equality and the fact that ordinary people can achieve the extraordinary. Everybody, young or old, can relate to that (Source: Woolley in Moss 2010 np link).

I was confused when I saw Made in Dagenham last week as at the end it included some black and white news clippings from the 1960s showing older women on strike, while the film used much younger women. The successful and inspiring film is a dramatisation of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination over pay. But how truthful was the film? (Source: Seymour 2010 np link).

The trouble with Made In Dagenham, the latest feel-good Brit-caper from the director of Calendar Girls, is that it’s based on a true story, but not much of it rings true … in film’s version of events, the women are initially just peeved about being reclassified from ‘semi-skilled’ to ‘unskilled’, and they don’t consider the broader issue of gender equality until it’s spelt out for them by an avuncular union rep, Bob Hoskins. He then persuades Sally Hawkins to lead the industrial action, even though she’s never shown any interest in politics. It’s a strangely anti-feminist angle for a film about the women’s movement to take, and I doubt the reality was quite so simple. (Source: Barber 2010 np link).

Gwen Davis, Sheila Douglass, Eileen Pullan and Vera Sime, now aged in their 70s and 80s, were at the centre of the Ford dispute. They say they never felt like trailblazers, at the forefront of the second wave of feminism … Instead they were motivated by a sense of injustice, that their skilled work and therefore their pay, should be graded the same as male colleagues, not at the 87% of it they were paid. ‘We were fighting for ourselves,’ says Sheila. ‘For what we thought was our due.’ ‘It was because we were women and we were just paid less,’ adds Gwen (Source: Heald & McClatchey 2010 np link).

[They] feel some women are still ‘used’ by employers today, but they acknowledge the improvements. And, looking back, they are proud of their place in that process. ‘It has definitely made history,’ says Gwen. ‘It was a good fight. It was worth everything’ (Source: Heald & McClatchey 2010 np link).

The women had no previous experience of collective struggle on their own issue and, on the face of it, were quite unprepared to take on the mighty Ford multinational corporation which, in 1968, had an annual budget greater than that of India. But the strike brought Ford’s entire car production to a standstill … For the strike to succeed it needed support from at least one or two of the unions with members among the women. But the official union leaders adopted contradictory and ambivalent positions. The trade union side of Ford’s National Joint Negotiating Committee were hostile, regarding negotiations and strike decisions as their preserve … the women stood firm, their resolve strengthening by the day … In the end, the Ford women won 92 percent of the men’s rate, though it took another 16 years and another strike lasting seven weeks to win the regrading … It therefore represented the resurgence of rank and file trade unionism in one of the most ruthlessly anti-union firms in the world. It also laid the groundwork for the important all-out strikes of 1969 and 1971 … The strike gave a huge impetus to the women’s movement. In the years that followed, women’s trade union membership soared and the Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970. The strike also gave rise to the National Joint Action Campaign for Women’s Equal Rights … It was the spark that lit a flame that burns to this day. Their struggle remains an inspiration to millions of women fighting discrimination and poor working conditions (Source: McGregor & Sagall 2010 np link).

Last year's hit film Made In Dagenham painted a perfect picture of what some women had to endure. My own experience of sexism in the workplace has been, I'm pleased to say, limited and I was extremely proud of the legislation Labour introduced which means discrimination on any level is simply not acceptable anywhere or anytime when we are at work. For much of this, we must thank those very women who are now [due to pension reforms] facing an extra two years on the end of what have already been long working lives where they've probably juggled family commitments as well (Source: Keenan 2011 np).

Forty years after the Ford workers portrayed in Made in Dagenham thought they had secured a victory, the pay gap between men and women is still stubbornly stuck at almost 20 per cent (Source: Bennett 2010 p.28).

And as for equal pay? Women are still earning 20% less per hour worked than men which is, yes, a greater discrepancy than there was between the pay of women and men at the Ford plant in Dagenham in 1968 (Source: Campbell & Greer 2010 np link).

During the end credits you get a glimpse of some of the women strikers now and their opinions which was excellent to witness. Though what irked me somewhat was the mention of the Equal Pay Act in a caption at the end yet what was missing is the fact women working full-time are paid on average 17.1% less an hour than men for doing work of equivalent value. This figure rises to 20% for ethnic minority women, and to 36% for women working part-time. Equal pay is still on ongoing struggle, 42 years on (Source: Anon 2010b np link).

The film mistakenly credits the Dagenham strikers with inspiring Castle to become a champion of equal pay for women. The truth is she had been encouraging the unions to adopt a policy of equal pay for women for at least three years before the strike. The end captions suggest, much too complacently, that women today have equal pay with men. You don’t need to be Harriet Harman to know they have a long way to go (Source: Tookey 2010 np link).

Made in Dagenham, shows us unexpected success. Those women almost triumphed. Certainly they triggered the then employment secretary to introduce an equal pay act. But Barbara Castle fixed a deal, she managed a crisis: she didn’t honour those women’s yearning for respect as skilled women. They never really got what they wanted. They were never really heard (Source: Campbell & Greer 2010 np link).

There is little doubt in the minds of the General Council, that’s the General Council of the TUC, ‘that the home is one of the most important spheres for a woman worker and that it would be doing a great injury to the life of the nation if women were persuaded or forced to neglect their domestic duties to enter industry, particularly where there are young children to cater for.’ So that, I think, summarises the attitude to women workers … The women never stopped campaigning, never, despite the fact that governments and trade unions let them down, time after time ... if you look at the Ford women, and most women in the private sector, they did not do similar work to men. The work that the women were doing at Ford’s … they were machinists. It was highly skilled work, putting together parts of the seat covers for Ford cars but it was the grading at which they were put on, that was the key thing. They were always on very much lower rates of pay. In fact the largest single group of women workers at Ford’s were machinists. They had to pass a test to become machinists, and quite a stringent one at that, and they earned 92% of the lowest grade of male workers. There were four grades of male workers: The skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled. They earned 92% of the unskilled workers … And you can see some of the[ir] own testimonies in the interviews that the TUC captured, it was just unbelievable, they couldn’t believe it that their skill was completely unrecognised. Not only unrecognised, it was made worse by these management consultants downgrading them. It wasn’t unusual, by the way. What was unusual about all of this, I suppose, was that what they were doing was comparing themselves to male workers. They were saying even though we do something quite different, the work that we do is equal in skill. They said, for example, if the work is quiet on the machining front they can turn their hands, as they did, to fitting car doors. And then they say, well actually could the men do that? If the work is quiet on the car door front, could they come and machine car seats? No they can’t (Source: Davis nd np link).

It is not clear whether the producers (or the politicians for that matter) intended it … Made in Dagenham – has been released at the same time as the new Equality Act passes into law. Both celebrate the principle of equal pay, and lament the continuing ‘pay gap’ between men and women. Both also fall victim to one of the most damaging fallacies of government – the idea that you can mandate equality. In 1960s … women were frequently paid a lower wage for performing essentially equal work as men … Consequently, women had less market power than men, and in the deeply uncompetitive 1960s British economy, that meant that they got lower wages. That was wrong, and it was right of feminists, politicians and of course women workers themselves to oppose it. It may even have been right for the upholsterers at Dagenham to go on strike. But here is where both government and film go wrong. In a market economy, passing a law demanding equal pay doesn’t get equal pay. After the first round of equality legislation was introduced, many employers simply redefined women’s jobs or else sacked them. Often they did so in collusion with male dominated unions. The only way to get equal pay for women is to give them equal market power. Breaking up monopolistic unions in the 1980s helped do that. So did the cultural changes which have made it acceptable for a woman to be an executive, or a lawyer or even the Prime Minister. The free market has been of tremendous benefit to women - and the current position of women in the Western world is arguably better than at any point anywhere else in history. Symbolic value aside, however, the equality legislation had almost nothing to do with it – the pay gap had in fact been narrowing for years before it was even passed (Source: Knowles 2010 np link).

Impacts / Outcomes

Woolley says the film has not yet been seen by the three women on which it is based but that the singer Sandie Shaw, who has contributed to the score and who was raised in Dagenham, was so moved at one screening that she cried for two hours afterwards (Source: Akbar 2010, p.6).

The emotion spills over into the film. ‘I’ve seen it so many times,’ Karlsen [the film’s producer] said, ‘but when I see people come out crying and so moved by it, it makes me weep. It makes me think of my mother and grandmother, and the other women who fought for this’ (Source: Gritten 2010 np link).

I am inspired by the Dagenham Ladies. I claimed equal pay in April 2007. I was harassed for 9 months following my claim by the owner of the company and I had to resign for the sake of my health. Today, three and a half years later I am still without a job and my Tribunal case is still ongoing – I have received nothing by way of compensation. However – I will continue to the bitter end because, like these ladies, I hate injustice. Has it been worth it – I am still undecided (Source: Julia 2010 np link).

In a former job, I had a male colleague in exactly the same role, with similar qualifications (MSc and BSc, although I believe I had better A-level and GCSE grades) and less experience. Our working hours, responsibilities etc. were all the same but due to his inexperience I often helped him – he was paid 10% more than me (Source: Catriona 2010 np link).

In a recent Guardian article two well-known feminists (Germaine Greer and Beatrix Campbell) were ... asked to comment on how far they believe British society has come since the Dagenham strikes. Both Greer and Campbell were decidedly optimistic about the messages that they felt could be gleaned from the film and in relation to the impact that they think it may have on young women. Despite Greer being disappointed by the apparent lack of consultation with the ‘real’ Dagenham strikers (who, she claims, say they had far too much self respect to sit around in the factory in their bra and  panties), with the glamorisation of the women (having been replaced by much younger, heavily made-up and scantily clad actresses) and the fact that film does not accurately portray how the strikers’ arguments moved from a focus on skill to one of equal pay, she still claims that: ‘Our hearts should leap when we behold a film like Made in Dagenham’ as it is ‘meant to inspire today’s young women to continue their mothers’ struggle towards the ever-disappearing will o’ the wisp that is equal pay’. Campbell is equally upbeat about the film, largely because she appears to be passionate about the social class issues that it raises. Confident that it is a powerful force she claims that: ‘…Feminism is stirring again and the chronicle of those nice, dangerous women is being aired all over the place…They are a reminder of what could have been: a labour movement in the image and interests of women. Revolutionary’. Made in Dagenham has also recently been the subject of discussion in a recent Radio Four broadcast: ‘Whatever happened to the Sisterhood’. Both the transcript of the show and the broadcast itself can be found online and are certainly worth a look/listen. For those interested in gender and education, the debate centres round a discussion of the role that feminism plays in young women’s lives and of the gendered restrictions that young women face in contemporary times. Jessica Ringrose, a member of the Gender and Education Association, was an invited guest on the programme and spoke at length about her recent research which focuses on how girls present themselves on social networking sites. Ringrose outlines the pressures relating to, what she calls, the ‘pornification’ of society but also makes a call for girls’ pleasure and desire to be found a space within the sex education curriculum. Although not addressing the concerns that Ringrose raises, the film education website has recently released a number of resources which can be used by secondary school teachers in conjunction with the Made in Dagenham film. These include activities which can be used in citizenship, media or history lessons. Not only do these resources seek to encourage discussions about women’s rights and equal pay, but also to explore the other more subtle forms of gendered discrimination that women may face. The media lesson plan, for example, asks students to discuss the status of women in society during the 1960’s and to watch a clip of the film in order to consider how the strikers were being positioned by the male union representatives. Perhaps, Campbell is right. By using these resources in schools, youth clubs and universities maybe we can stir up activism and a renewed interest in feminism? We would be especially interested in your views of the film and of these resources – are they useful tools with which to continue these discussions in schools? (Source: Allan 2010 np link).

In the final credits of the film Made in Dagenham we are told that Ford is now one of the leading employers in supporting diversity and inclusion … But we should remember that the catalyst for change came from the Ford women workers, and from the UK government’s equal pay legislation, not from company bosses. It is an indication of how far we have come since 1968 that an organisation like Ford now wants to be seen as a leader in the field of diversity and equality (Herman 2010 p295).

[Made in Dagenham Film Premier protest 20 September 2010] 40 years later Ford have treated pensioners with the same contempt as the machinists in 1968 ... They stitched up the ladies in 1968 and they are stitching us up now. Ford are doing exactly the same as they always have done; that’s to cheat the people that work for them for 30 years … Give me my pension back, I worked for 30 years for it and my family are suffering terribly because I’ve lost 50% of my pay cheque (Source: Anon 2010c np, see video here).

[Bob Hoskins wears a Visteon Pension Action Group - link - hat at the Made in Dagenham premier: see video BBC news clip here] (Source: Anon 2010d np).

Getting the right pay for the work that you’re doing is a basic tenet of respect, regardless of your gender. Now, 42 years after Dagenham and 38 years after Australian women officially achieved pay parity, workplace equality is back on the agenda in a big way. Come January, Australia will finally have a paid parental leave scheme, supported by both major parties. The Australian Stock Exchange recently introduced new guidelines that ask publicly listed companies to disclose their gender diversity policies, and require them to explain why if they choose not to do so (Source: Hills 2010 p.14 link)

Hawkins ... sees the film ... as recognition of the women's battle. ‘Sadly, equality is very much still a fight we're fighting. In the film industry - again - it's men calling the shots and it always has been. It frustrates me enormously,’ she said. ‘As the women of Dagenham showed us, it's so important to fight for what you believe is right, even when it's scary’ (Source: Thorpe 2010, p.3 link).

‘When you hear the story, you immediately see the parallels to today's world, because even though autoworkers have equality, women still aren't adequately represented in all areas of the workforce,’ Cole says. ‘And the film industry is one of the very worst culprits. Only a fraction of working directors are women. And as a man, I have to say, I find that a bit embarrassing. I'm not going to apologize for the whole situation -- since it's well beyond my control -- but I will say we looked at our own production through new eyes, and really focused on trying to open the hiring patterns in different crafts’. Cole says that, just by asking questions, the whole crew found a new perspective on gender issues in the workplace. ‘I think, when you come right down to it, this movie and the whole issue is about the difference between a right and a privilege. When we see Rita's husband talk about what a great guy he is because he doesn't drink or beat her, we understand how he's thinking: He deserves a pat on the back for being a good bloke, but really, he's just being a decent human being.’ Cole says that, years later, men still see themselves as heroes for being loyal, kind, loving and nurturing husbands, when for women, it's just the expected minimum. ‘We're still living with a double standard,’ he said. ‘And until you really open your eyes to it, you can't see it. I know. I'm a man and I didn't see. Fortunately, I have a wife with very good eyesight’ (Source: Monk 2010 p.D3).

The winner of this year's [UK} T[rades] U[nion] C[ongress] 60 second ad contest will be able to watch their entry appear alongside special screenings of the new film Made in Dagenham. The TUC is asking for budding film makers to create an ad that lasts up to a minute that will encourage and inform people to join a trade union. The audience for the ad are those people who have little or no knowledge of trade unions (Source: Anon 2010e. np).

The women who inspired the film 'Made in Dagenham' talk to the National Union of Students about the film, protesting and the national demonstration [against education cuts] on 10 November 2010 (Source: Nusuk 2010 np: watch video here).

Sources / Further Reading

Akbar, A. (2010) The diary. Arts & book review 28 May, p.6

Allan, A. (2010) Made in Dagenham: made for feminist discussion in schools? 23 October ( last accessed 29 June 2011)

Allott, S. (2010) Everybody out! Daily telegraph 11 September

Anon (2003) The Reunion - 1968 Ford Machinists’ strike. 7 September (/ last accessed 1 July 2011)

Anon (2010a) Made in Dagenham director praises pioneering Ford wormen. BBC Essex online 24 September ( last accessed 29 June 2011)

Anon (2010b) Review – Made in Dagenham. 3 October ( last accessed 29 June 2011)

Anon (2010c) Made in Dagenham Film Premier protest 20-09-10. 21 September ( last accessed 1 July 2011)

Anon (2010d) Bob Hoskins and his Visteon Ford Fraud hat at Made in Dagenham premier. 24 September ( last accessed 1 July 2011).

Anon (2010e) Play aims to strike the balance for equal pay. Labour research August

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Anon (2011b) Made in Dagenham. South Wales Echo 26 March

Bamigboye, B. (2010) Gary puts on his smiley face. Daily Mail 4 June

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Ellam, D. & Lee-Potter, A. (2010) Why women today owe so much to the strikers who brought Ford to its knees. Sunday mirror 12 September p.32-3

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Compiled by Sarah Brown, Izzy Brunswick, Julia Nientiedt, Alistair Wheeler, Camilla Windham and Becky Woolford, edited by Emma Christie-Miller and Ian Cook (last updated October 2013). Page created as part of the ‘Geographies of material culture’ module at Exeter University. Thanks to KMJ Restorations for letting us photograph the Ford Anglia car seat pictured above. Legoing by Ian Cook.