Women, you’ve never had it so good…
I recently had a trip down memory lane when I watched “Made In Dagenham’ the 2010 film directed by Nigel Cole and starring Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins and Andrea Riseborough. He was the guy who brought us Calender Girls, a fab and funny look at the back story behind the WI’s saucy fundraiser. Anyway, this film touched me because I met my husband in a car parts factory way back when I was a student and he had nothing better to do. We used to send parts to Daggers and there is a vicious rumor that our young love was responsible for stuffing up production after some parts went a bit wonky (but that is another story)……
So back to Dagenham.
The film follows the political struggle of the machinists working at Fords Dagenham plant in the late 1960’s a time of mass protests, strikes and unrest. The main character Rita doesn’t start out to change the world but spurred on by foreman Albert she finds her voice and leads the women on a campaign to win the right to be acknowledged for the skilled work that they do and to receive grading and pay rates equal to male workers. The thing that I found confronting was the fact that these women had everything against them including (at least for many of them) their families.
1960’s England was still somewhat hostile to women workers who were often made to feel that they were bringing shame on their family by belittling their men. On top of the social stigma stood legal issues which left many a women struggling to hold on to her job after she became married and those who did were often paid only a fraction of that earned by their male counterparts even if they did the same job.
The films narrative weaves in some great back stories about the women’s home lives and dreams, some real life news footage of the events and a light-hearted trip down memory lane with the music and fashions.
I loved this ‘perfect for TV” film because it had none of the Hollywood sugar and spice that you sometimes get with this kind of story. Yes the women did win, laws were changed and respect was won but it didn’t come without a cost. Marriages were stretched, children were left with burned dinners and hearts were broken.
Recognising that something needs to change is easy, doing something about is not. It took courage for those women in Dagenham to stand up and be counted and we should remember them.
Women, you’ve never had it so good (and you know what a crock of rubbish that is but you have to admit that we have come a long way!)