Made in Dagenham (2010)

 

 

Director:     Nigel Cole.

Starring:      Sally Hawkins (Rita O'Grady), Andrea Riseborough (Brenda), Jaime Winstone (Sandra), Lorraine Stanley (Monica), Nicola Duffett (Eileen), Geraldine James (Connie), Bob Hoskins (Albert Passingham), Matthew Aubrey (Brian), Daniel Mays (Eddie O'Grady), Roger Lloyd-Pack (George), Phil Cornwell (Dave), Karen Seacombe (Marge), Thomas Arnold (Martin), Sian Scott (Sharon O'Grady), Robbie Kay (Graham O'Grady), Andrew Lincoln (Mr. Clarke), Rosamund Pike (Lisa Hopkins), Joseph Mawle (Gordon), Kenneth Cranham (Monty Taylor), Gina Bramhill (Hopkins' Secretary), Marcus Hutton (Grant), Rupert Graves (Peter Hopkins), Miranda Richardson (Barbara Castle), Joseph Kloska (Undersecretary 1), Miles Jupp (Undersecretary 2), Frank Baker (Frank), Philip Perry (Arthur Horovitz), Richard Schiff (Robert Tooley), Peter-Hugo Daly (Bartholomew), Simon Armstrong (Rogers), Joseph Kloska (Undersecretary 1), Miles Jupp (Undersecretary 2), Frank Baker (Frank), Philip Perry (Arthur Horovitz), Richard Schiff (Robert Tooley).

female workers walk out in protest against sexual discrimination in 1968 at the Ford Dagenham car plant

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the film.   Curse words, spelled out.

Dagenham is a large suburb in east London, England and located 12 miles (19.3 km) east of Charing Cross. The suburb is located on the River Thames. In 1931 the Ford Motor Company relocated from Trafford Park in Stretford to a plant in Dagenham.

1968. This is a story about the female Ford sewing machinists. At the time Ford Motor Company was putting out in all their different locations 3,000 cars every day. It was the biggest single motor manufacturer in all Europe and the fourth biggest in the world. There were at that time 44,000 men were employed and 187 women.

The women get off work and ride their bicycles back home.

The next day they return to work. Some of the women strip down to their skivvies in order to avoid the stifling heat. Rita O'Grady teases Eileen about the huge size of her bra. Connie, the shop steward, comes in a little late to work. She has an ailing husband named George and she was up half the night.

May 28. River Plant Machinists Section. A woman shouts out: "Man!" The buzzer now buzzes. These are warnings to the women to cover-up because a man has come onto the floor. It's the shop supervisor Albert Passingham. Albert shields his eyes with his left hand as he walks down the steps. He encourages the women to cover up quickly. The women start teasing him and Albert says: "Please, ladies behave."

Management has recently degraded the women to unskilled work. The women have filed a complaint and the deadline for action on their complaint has now passed. So they have to vote on what to do. If they want to take action, they will begin an immediate ban on all overtime and a one-day work stoppage on May 29. All the women vote for industrial action. And now they shout for joy and solidarity.

A lot of women from the shop go out dancing with their husbands and boyfriends at the same place. It' one of the girl's birthday. Rita dances with her husband Eddie. Brenda and her boyfriend are in a car shagging. Sandra, a pretty girl, is at the party and she tries to get George to dance with her. George doesn't want to and Albert saves him by grabbing Sandra and taking her out onto the dance floor.

When the party is over, most of the people just walk home because there is company housing right there near the factories.

The next morning Rita calls her children, Graham and Sharon, to breakfast. Graham says he's not feeling well. Mom goes over to him and asks to see his right hand. Graham's teacher, Mr. Clarke, has whacked his hand with a ruler again and again leaving a large nasty welt in the palm of the boy's hand. Rita tells her son she will deal with it.

Rita walks to the school and speaks with the teacher. "You hit my son." He is rather curt with her and Rita can't think of a snappy come-back. She nearly runs out of the school. On her way out she literally runs into Lisa Hopkins. Lisa asks if Rita is alright, but Rita just says: "Fuck off!"

In the shop the rain gets inside because there are several leaks in the roof. The women have to put down buckets. Albert rushes up to Connie and she reminds him he's not supposed to run up on the women in their skivvies. He apologizes profusely. He's a little too anxious because there is a meeting tomorrow at Ford's headquarters down in Warley. Apparently, management just couldn't believe that machinists were threatening strike action. The women clap for this. At the meeting, the men in attendance will be Hopkins, Jones and Grant. Also at the meeting will be people from the women's side: Monty Taylor from the head office, Albert, of course, Connie and they need another woman to come to the meeting.

No one is volunteering, that is, until Albert says that it will be a day off for the women. Now lots of women raise their hands. Albert looks right at Rita and she asks: "What?" The women all look at Rita and they agree with Albert. They want Rita to be the other woman at the meeting. She hesitates but then accepts.

Eddie promises the children that they can have a color TV as soon as the companies start renting them. Rita tells him not to promise the children a color TV. They haven't even paid off the refrigerator yet. And now things are harder because they have all this unrest at work.

Eddie laughs at the last remark saying that there's no real unrest until the workers start actually striking. Rita thinks Eddie is putting her down. Eddie quickly starts apologizing to her and also makes some nice comments about her work. Rita is no longer disappointed. She tells Eddie about her big meeting with all the bosses coming up today. Eddie is a little shocked that his wife has been chosen to go to the big meeting and he is a little upset that he will be caring for the children.

Rita's team stops to have a very nice lunch at a restaurant. They discuss the strategy of what they should do. Monty basically tells the women to be quiet and to nod when Monty nods.

In the negotiations Monty is too amiable with management. He asks for a two week recess and then they will come back and meet. Rita simply says: "Bollocks." This shocks all the males at the table. Rita takes out a bunch of pieces of leather and says that the women have to figure out how to put these many pieces together because they have no template to follow. And that, sirs, is not unskilled work. A manager says he understands, but Rita stops him by saying: "Oh, well, I really don't think you do. It's not difficult, though. We're entitled to semi-skilled and the wages what go with it."

Rita says she has to be going. She and Connie walk out, followed by Albert. Monty comes out a bit later. He says to Albert: "You think I like looking stupid?" Albert says he had no idea that Rita was even going to talk.

Connie and Rita go back to the shop. The women stop working and talking to hear what Rita has to say. Rita gets up on a chair and then hems and haws a bit before she finally says: "Right. . . . Um. . . . Everybody out!" The women are shocked for a bit, but then they just start leaving the work place.

A very competent woman, the Secretary of State, Employment and Productivity starts her first day at her job. She asks her two aides what have they been doing since 1966? She rises saying that they had two years to do something but nothing has been done. There were 26,000 strikes in the United Kingdom causing a loss of 5 million working days. The two guys are bewildered as what to even say to their new boss.

The women come with their placards to start picketing the Ford Company.

Ford Company, Michigan, USA. The bosses at Dagenham call Peter Tooley to tell him that they have another dispute going on. Tooley asks: "Who is it this week?" The women.

It starts raining at Dagenham. The women want to go home now. Rita says they have lodged in their protest, so they can all go home now.

Going home Rita passes a restaurant. Albert knocks on the glass and motions for her to come in and have a chat with him. Albert is very frank with her: "This dispute's got nothing to do with what skill level you are. Ford decided to give you less money because they can. They're allowed to pay women a lower wage than men." He says the secret of success is that they have to get equal pay for women. He adds: "Someone has gotta stop these exploiting bastards getting away with what they've been doing for years."

Albert says he wants Rita to be the leader and spokeswoman for the drive for equal pay.

At the school Lisa Hopkins is waiting outside in her car while it is raining outside.  Rita arrives and has to stand in the rain until the kids get let out of school. Lisaq gets Rita's attention and motions her to come over to the car. Rita does and Lisa tells her to sit in the car. Rita says no, but Lisa insists.

In the car Lisa asks Rita if she would sign a letter that lodges a formal complaint to the headmaster about Clarke's caning the children. Rita says she tried to talk to Clarke, but . . . Lisa interrupts her to say that no one can talk to Clarke. He's a bully and he likes to beat the children.

Rita signs the letter. And now she apologies to Lisa for cursing at her the other day. Lisa gets Rita on her side because she acts so down-to-earth, saying that she called Mr. Clarke a complete cock. Rita and she have a good laugh together.

A young fellow comes on the floor the next morning. The women really tease him and especially so because it's obvious they're unnerving him. Brian is his name and he brings the women some bad news written in a letter from management.

Rita, cheered on by the women, goes to see what's going on. She gets Albert and Monty to come to speak with the women. Monty has some simple advice: "Ignore it." This is standing operatingg procedure following a day of a walkout. Rita objects to the tone in the letter. Monty says again that's standard procedure, they don't really mean it. But Rita reminds Monty that he and management are dealing with women, not men. She wants to lodge a complaint about the language of the letter even if it is standard procedure for the men.

Now Rita wants to up the ante. She says she wants the women to begin a work stoppage until they get equal pay for equal work. Monty is flabbergasted at her boldness. Rita says ". . . from now on we gotta demand a level playing field and rates of pay which reflect the job you do, not whether you've got a dick or not." That gets a big laugh from the women.

This strike is about fairness. Equal pay or nothing. They take a vote and it's unanimous again. Now Rita tells the women: "Everybody, out!" The women start leaving. Monty looks like he's just been beaten down and it hurts. Albert can't hide his pride and his glee for the women.

Monty tells the British boss and the the boss tells Peter Tooley in Michigan. Tooley's reaction: "Shit." Monty blames all this on Albert who, he says, went behind his back. In fact, he's a bloody troublemaker. Monty tells Albert that he tried to protect him, but the union bosses want to see him and in there he's "gonna get such a fucking bollocking".

Albert sits down before the union bosses. Even the top union man seems to be on the side of the employers. He says: ". . . as a union, we have to remember who comes first." [And that's the men, in their minds.]

Albert stands up to the union men saying: "Equal pay across the board. You telling me that ain't worth fighting for?" He says he is going to continue to help Rita, which is something that the union bosses should be doing too.

Rita goes from place to place talking about supporting equal pay for equal work.

Ford Halewood Factory. Liverpool, England. She urges the women to strike for all women, not just for machinists.

Rita returns home. Eddie asks her about her trip and she says it was successful. "Every single one of them came out." Eddie is swamped with dishes yet to be washed. He doesn't look too happy about always being left behind.

Now the women protest in downtown London to draw more attention to their cause. Rita is interviewed on the news.

At a bar George tells Eddie to tell his wife Rita that this fuss has gone on long enough. Eddie tells him that the women are not deliberately dragging this out.

Dagenham factory runs out of finished car seats. This means a full stop on the assembly line. "No more seats, no more jobs." The men have to go home now. Rita sees the men going home early and she asks what's going on? One of the men stops riding his bike and tells her that she's shut down the factory.

Millions of pounds are being lost in export orders due to the shut-down.

Rita tries to talk to Eddie about the factory closing, but Eddie is pretty mad at Rita. She tells him this is the last push because Ford can't afford leaving the factory closed down. Eddie says everything is okay, but he doesn't mean it. So Rita says when the men go on strike the women support them, and now that the women are out, they would like the men to support them.

Rita tells Eddie to say whatever it is that's bothering him. He says no, he's just fine.

Tooley gets a lot of pressure from the head of the firm to stop this movement for equal pay for equal work. So Tooley heads off for Dagenham, England.

The secretary of state, Barbara Castle, speaks with the Prime Minister Harold Wilson (in office 1964-1970). She tells him she needs his help on getting the number of strikes down. He tells her to speak with Jack Scamp, who is a great negotiator. Barbara says this most recent problem is about 187 employees, all of them women.

Mr. Hopkins brings Tooley to his house for dinner and conversation. Wife Lisa Hopkins is there at the house to greet Tooley. Tooley enjoys the meal and tells Lisa that. He also says she must be smart because Peter said that she read history at Cambridge. Yes, she did.

Tooley asks her what she thinks of the women's strike? She says that things would be better if, like General Motors, management would have a more collaborative approach to the workers and management. Ford just tolerates the unions, so the unions become even more entrenched and aggressive. Peter is uneasy with what his wife is saying, so he asks his wife to bring out some Stilton cheese and some grapes.

Rita goes over to see Connie who has not been seen for awhile. She asks Connie about their next union business, but she says she's not going. Connie says that her husband George is ill. "He's 'touched'". And the strike is bringing back bad memories for him. She adds that she has to put George first.  Rita says that Connie has her own life too and she's got to live it right. Otherwise this strike is going to destroy both George and Connie.

At night George has a nightmare and wakes up combative. It seems he might hit Connie, but she gets him to stop it. He starts crying and says I'm sorry.

Tooley doesn't seem to like Monty Taylor. He tells Monty that he has been going through his company file and it seems that Mr. Taylor is on Mr. Taylor's side in the strike. Tooley loudly says: "Industry cannot afford to pay women the same rates as men, gentlemen." Men will be laid off and even the unions will disappear.

Tooley also says that Monty has been abusing the system to get grand meals at really nice restaurants, the all-expenses paid trips to the party conferences and the union conferences. And the latter often take place in Paris. He sums up with these words to Monty: "Go break the strike!" Monty leaves the room.

Rita says hello to Gordon, one of the workers for Ford. He starts criticizing Rita, saying things like: "You can afford to have principles. I mean, you ain't the breadwinner." But he has to work to pay all his family's bills. And now he can't because he can't work. He calls her a "fucking idiot" and walks away from her. Of course, this bothers Rita. What bothers her more is that interviews with the Ford male workers reveals that most of them are not supportive of the women strikers and they for sure don't support equal pay for equal work.

Rita goes home. She sees two men repossessing her refrigerator. Eddie says he spent the last of his money on the electric bill. Rita goes upstairs. She confronts Eddie saying that he spent the last of their emergency money that was in the repair kit. Eddie says he had to pay the milkman. Rita says Eddie could have stalled the milk man for at least another week. She and Eddie get into a shouting match.

The next-door neighbor tells Rita that she saw Sandra down at the Ford factory. Sandra is being used as a model for Ford cars. She looks very pretty as a model and the photographer likes her. Rita comes into the room and Sandra starts to feel guilty. She drops her head down and asks to take a break. Sandra tells Rita that this work will let her get her foot into the world of modeling. Rita says that Sandra is definitely a model and Ford couldn't get anyone better. But, Sandra can do better than working for Ford. So Sandra quits.

Lisa Hopkins reads in the newspaper that the tide has turned against the Dagenham women. This news upsets her. And she finally realizes that Rita is one of the strike leaders. 

Connie gets dressed. She is going to do some union work for Rita. George doesn't like it, but Connie goes anyway.

The aides of Barbara Castle tell her that the union men want to go back to work, so they want the unions to withdraw support from the women in order to put pressure on them to stop striking. The aides says that it will all be over within a week. Barbara is not impressed by her aides. She tells them: "You're assuming the girls will do as they're told. "

Rita sees Connie in the union offices. Albert comes in saying he's sorry he's late. He says the male workers have hanged the women out to dry by not supporting the females and by asking the union to end the women's strike. Albert tells them don't believe a word of what the union officials are going to tell them.

The union officials tell them to go to a vote about continuing the strike. The vote would be the actual final and binding position and that would mean the matter would be out of their hands. The women don't take a position, as of yet.

Rita walks Connie home. As she walks to her own home she hears a terrible scream. She runs back to check on Connie. Connie lets her in and Rita sees George has hanged himself.

Rita goes to the funeral.  She tells Connie that she is so sorry for what happened with George. Connie floors Rita by saying that Rita is not sorry. She claims that Rita saw George as a millstone around Connie's neck holding Connie back. This is totally unfair, but in her grief Connie now blames Rita for the death of her husband.

Rita has been hurt by Connie and she thinks about her actions and motives, as well as Connie's bitterness. Lisa Hopkins comes to her apartment to tell Rita that Mr. Clarke has been asked to leave the school. Lisa sees that Rita is somewhat out of it, so she starts to walk away. She turns to say that she's married to Peter Hopkins. The women realize that neither of them knew who the other woman was. Lisa says her husband treats her like she is a fool. Lisa tells Rita to keep up the good work and keep up with making history. Both women tear up. Lisa says to Rita, don't let me down.

This inspires Rita to finish her work. She gets dressed up, puts on some lipstick and heads out for Eastbourne. Eddie chases her down and says he's sorry about the way he has acted lately, but Rita has to take a lot of the blame too. Rita keeps telling him this is not the time for this conversation. He says that this conversation "needs saying" and he tells her all the bad things he doesn't do like some of the men.  

This backfires on Eddie because Rita tells him that behaving himself as a man should not be seen as a big accomplishment. "That is as it should be. Jesus, Eddie." She asks Eddie to try to understand her and that really isn't hard. She says: "Rights, it's not privileges. It's that easy. It really bloody is." She runs to catch her bus.

The bus is about to pull away when Rita shows up. Eddie gets on his motorcycle and follows after the bus. They arrive at the meeting a little late. Monty is speaking and when he sees the women come in, he has to change the content of what he is saying. He refers to those "lovely, brave ladies". They are on their way to a fight for equal pay, no matter what." He tells the men to consider the ladies' demands as "too much, too soon".

Brenda shouts out that Monty Taylor is a two-faced, hypocritical toe-rag! Monty says he and the women will sort this out later in private. One of the men stands up and says he would like to hear from the women.

Rita goes up to the platform. She has a slow start. She starts talking about the death of her friend's husband. He fought in the war and she asked him why? He said: "Well, you gotta do something, haven't you?" It was a given that you had to do something because it was a matter of principle. And the women are doing something. And the men have to back them up and stand up with them. "We are the working classes. The men and the women. We are not separated by sex but only by those who are willing to accept injustice . . . " The men and women must work for equal pay because that is the right thing to do. Thank you.

Eddie is at the meeting. They walk outside together and Eddie says he's sorry for his actions and that his wife is right. "And it's amazing what you've done, Rita O'Grady. And I wanna back you." He says he listened to her speech and his wife was "huge" up there. "Like a force."

Rita is touched by her husband's words. She grabs him and gives him a proper kiss. She says his backing will make a difference to her. She starts to cry and says: "It makes all the difference in the world."

Rita goes back in to hear the result of the vote. The vote is favorable to supporting the women machinists.

Barbara Castle meets with her two male aides. This time they have good news for the secretary of state and Barbara is pleased. She says she wants to set up a meeting so she can talk to the women strike leaders. The men look perplexed and sas that this kind of thing is never done. It will only encourage the women and give credence to their cause.  Now Barbara is angry again at the guys. Give credence to their cause?! "My God, their cause already has credence!" Equal pay is just that equal and that' just common justice. She calls the aides chauvinists and bigots, not to mention incompetent. "Set up the meeting!"

Albert comes and tells Rita that Barbara Castle wants to see her. Rita is thrilled.

Someone else is not thrilled and that's Henry Ford the second. The prime minister talks with Barbara in his car. He tells her he had a call from Henry Ford II and he had to spend a half-hour on the phone trying to reassure Ford that the government is not on the side of the strikers. The government isn't taking sides.

Wilson says she can see the women, but just don't say anything that is going to upset Ford. "I've got enough trouble with the Americans as it is."

Rita shows up at Lisa Hopkins house. Her husband is shocked to see Rita the radical at his door. Lisa comes over, opens the door and tells Rita to come in. Hubby can't believe it! He says loudly: "Lisa!" But even more loudly, Lisa says: "What?!" The husband backs down. Rita comes in to sit down.

Rita is on the move again. They are outside Barbara Castle's building door. Connie shows up and is nice to Rita. The two women plus Brenda and Sandra go in to speak with the secretary of state.

Barbara unexpectedly runs into Mr. Tooley. He tells her that Ford wants to stay in Britain and have British men and women in their employ. So Barbara shouldn't do anything to force Ford to go elsewhere.

Barbara asks if Mr. Tooley is threatening her? Tooley says he's just trying to prevent 40,000 people from losing their jobs. Why put the issue at such risk?

Barbara tries to get the prime minister on the phone but he is on a plane at the moment. So Barbara goes ahead with her meeting. Barbara tells the women that she has followed their actions and is very proud of what they have accomplished so far. "I fully support the struggle for equal pay and you will have it." The women are happy to hear that, but then Barbara says: "But in time." Rita is a bit shocked. And then Barbara continues with: "Return to work. Go back to your machines and you have my word I will push forward with your fight."

Rita says no. The women workers need something solid and need it now. Barbara didn't expect this resistance. So she asks what is that something sold that the women need? Rita says they need a guarantee that they will get equal pay. And they want to move up at least 90 percent of the income gap between the sexes at Ford.

She tells Rita that Rita is putting her in a very difficult position. She takes a sip of whiskey and walks over to talk with Tooley. She says: "Mr. Tooley, that risk you were talking about? I'm going to have to take it."

Barbara and the women strikers come out to speak with the press. They are joined by the other strikers. Barbara tells the news people that the women are going back to work and they will each receive a raise of seven pence per hour, which will put them at 92 percent of the male rate. Furthermore, the government is in full support of an Equal Pay Act.

Now all the women are happy and smiling as they hug each other in congratulations.

"Two years later in May 1970 the Equal Pay Act became law. Similar legislation quickly followed in most industrial countries across the world."

At the end of the film there is actual news footage of the women who really made labor, national and world history.

"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."

 


Terrific movie and very enjoyable to watch. My wife and I both really liked it. It's an uplifting film showing how a group of women workers changed history. The women fight for equal pay with the men against serious objections, including from their own union. But the women continued on and came through for all of human kind.

The acting was good all around. I especially liked Sally Hawkins as Rita O'Grady, the strike leader. She really caught the mixed feelings of what was a seemingly ordinary young married woman thrust into the limelight. She definitely had to keep fighting to keep progress moving forward, including fighting her own husband. Bob Hoskins was great, as he always is. He played the role of the supervisor of the women's work and a good soul was the real Albert Passingham.

So, thank you, women of Dagenham, England.

Patrick Louis Cooney,  Ph. D. 

 

 

Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)